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Real Deal: The Case of the Disruptive Salesperson



[span class=alert]To be eligible for publication in INSTORE, responses must include your name, store name, and the city and state in which your store is located.[/span]

JANUARY 2007: Argent Gems had gone through a difficult couple years of flat to slightly declining sales and profits that had caused a good deal of stress and strain among the family members. Their store was in need of renovation and though Bonnie Argent bought conservatively for the prior holiday season, the cases were far from bare. Still, it seemed they never had just the right items for the few customers that did come in. Their small sales staff handled most of the customers and a consistently high volume of repair take-in, but a lack of a consistent system and procedures kept them bogged down in detail and paperwork.

[dropcap cap=A]t a crisis point, the family contracted with a notable consulting firm and set out to change things — to jump-start the business, improve merchandising, and develop the skills of their staff so that the focus would turn back to cultivating customers and delivering exceptional service. The Argents believed that if they went above and beyond to provide an amazing experience, they could easily pick up the market share deserted by the two other local stores who went out of business at the end of the year.[/dropcap]

MARCH 2009: Over the previous two years, the family had implemented nearly all the recommendations of the consulting firm, including having the whole team work on a sweat-driven “update” of the showroom. They implemented a new organizational structure, and a mandatory, ongoing training program. They developed their staff into a well-functioning, entrepreneurial team and embarked on innovative client-development techniques. While other local stores were suffering through double-digit drops in volume, Argent Gems actually saw a slight increase in 2007 and finished 2008 at $2.6 million, about flat with the prior year. Despite shrinking margins, the Argent family felt blessed.

To increase the level of accountability within their sales team, they also implemented a new base-plus-commission compensation system. To complement the compensation system, the staff carefully crafted guidelines for team selling and turnovers that were consistent with the customer-service policy.


The entire organization is on board with the new structure, compensation system, tools and techniques for client development, and sales guidelines … except for one salesperson. The holdout is Carol, a 10-year associate who also happens to be the second-top salesperson.

Although Carol was involved in developing the “sales-split” guidelines, she continues to be territorial and protective of “her” sales and “her” perceived customers. She causes continuous conflict with others on the sales team. She disagrees with new policies or procedures and on top of that, she demonstrates perpetual dissatisfaction with life in general.

Despite her general negativity, however, Carol has a very strong and loyal following and she’s well-known in the small community. The Argents are tired of the dissention and negativity Carol brings to the store, but they are concerned that letting her go would have serious negative implications in the client ranks.

[h3][b]The BIG questions:[/b] When is “enough” enough? Is it sensible to treat top producing associates the same as lesser performers or do they deserve a greater degree of consideration? Does an incentive-based system make people more competitive and less cooperative? What should the Argent’s do with Carol?[/h3]

Editor’s Note: Real Deal Scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The characters should not be confused with real people.

[span class=note]This story is from the March 2009 edition of INSTORE[/span]


[span class=alert]To be eligible for publication in INSTORE, responses must include your name, store name, and the city and state in which your store is located. [/span]



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