I was telling our board member Mel Kleiman this story yesterday and he suggested it would make a good blog post. Here goes.
My 19 year old son is working for Vector Marketing this summer, selling Cutco knives. Vector is a 60 year old company that sells high end cutlery through a workforce principally comprised of temporary contract employees. The product is very good – my oldest Cutco knives are almost 20 years old. Having been a prior customer, I’ve been fascinated by a close up view of how they develop their reps and keep them engaged. There are lessons here that most employers can and should apply to their own workforce.
- Train your employees to generate the outcomes you require – Cutco has a formula they’ve refined over 60 years and they make sure their employees can execute that formula.
- Keep in regular contact with your employees to understand their progress and motivate them to even better performance – The reps call the office every day to report on their sales results as well as their pipeline building activities.
- Recognize and reward superior accomplishment – Commission rates expand in proportion to the rep’s cumulative sales. Reps who achieve short term challenge goals earn more.
While my son may occasionnally chafe at the structure of the Cutco process, he’s learned a few things this summer beyond how to sell knives:
- Customer communication skills are critical – he has to make appointments to build a pipeline, and he has to make a compelling argument for his product to earn commissions.
- Planning is key to success – if he doesn’t schedule time to make appointments, they don’t make themselves.
- Customer service is hard, but worth it – he’s had a few difficult appointments with difficult people, but has prevailed through patience and humor.
All in all, he won’t retire for life on his Cutco earnings, but he’s learned valuable lessons he can take to the bank.2