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CASE 6 (10.1): DO I REALLY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ALL THESE PEOPLE? Linda Stephens is a sales engineer for

McDonnell-Cummins Company, which sells specialty chemicals, plastics, and polymer products to large consumer goods companies. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in chemical engineering, Linda interviewed with several companies and received three job offers. She decided to take the job as sales engineer with McDonnell-Cummins because it offered the best overall compensation package (including perks such as a new car and an expense account), as well as a career path that could lead to top management. After three months of intensive training that included classroom lectures and discussions, laboratory demonstrations of products, videotapes, lots of reading material, and several examinations, Linda feels confident of her knowledge of the company's products and believes that she is prepared to make effective sales presentations to customers. Still, on her first sales call at the headquarters of Gamble & Simpson, a large consumer products manufacturer, she is a little apprehensive as she walks into the huge lobby and sees many other people— apparently salespeople—waiting. After she introduces herself to the receptionist and says she is here for a 9 a.m. meeting with Bill Constantin in the purchasing department, she takes her Gamble & Simpson visitor's pass and sits down in a comfortable chair to wait for him. Within a few minutes, Bill's secretary, Marie Doyle, comes down to the lobby to greet Linda and escort her back to Bill's office. Marie says that Bill can spend only about fifteen minutes with Linda because he has to prepare for an emergency meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. with the vice president of purchasing. Arriving at Bill's office, Linda introduces herself and gives Bill her business card. Bill Constantin seems somewhat harried and preoccupied, so Linda thinks she had better forget the small talk and get down to business. Handing a packet of product brochures to Bill, she tells him that her company will be introducing several new products over the next few months and that she wants to give him some preliminary information about them. Linda makes a short presentation on each of five new products, while Bill listens and leafs through the brochures. Upon finishing her presentations, Linda asks whether he has any questions. Bill replies, "Not at the moment, but I'll probably have some later when I get a chance to read the brochures and talk to some of the R&D people. Right now, I've got to get ready for my 9:30 a.m. meeting." At that moment, Bill's supervisor, Esther Hughes, pokes her head in the door and says that she'd like to talk with Bill after his meeting with the VP. Bill quickly introduces Linda to Esther and leaves for his meeting. Esther was hired as purchasing manager only a month earlier, so she is still progressing up the learning curve at Gamble & Simpson. She asks Linda a few questions and requests copies of the product brochures to bring her up to date on what McDonnell-Cummins is offering. She remarks that at her previous company, she bought from a competitor of Linda's firm. Esther soon excuses herself and asks Marie if she would mind taking Linda out to the laboratory to introduce her to some of the research and development people who use the products that Bill buys for them. In the laboratory, Linda meets Dr. Stuart Forbes and Dr. Li Chu, two scientists who provide Bill with detailed specifications for products they need in their work. Li Chu says that he is working on a new idea for a laundry detergent for which he needs a polymer with particular properties. He asks Linda whether her company can provide such a product. Linda admits that she isn't sure but says that she will talk to her company's R&D people and let him know as soon as possible. While in the laboratory, Linda also meets Fred Burnett, a laboratory technician who carries out most of the experiments designed by Dr. Forbes and Dr. Chu. Fred is an uninhibited young man about Linda's age who cracks a couple of lighthearted jokes along the line of "What's a nice person like you doing in a place like this?" Finally, on the way out of the laboratory, Marie introduces Linda to the director of R&D, Dr. Leland Birsner, whose approval is required for any product requests submitted to purchasing. Dr. Birsner seems rather dour, but he is polite enough and says that he hopes Linda will keep him informed about any new products her company is developing. Taking this as her cue, Linda hands him another packet of brochures from her briefcase. Later, while walking back to the lobby with Marie, Linda asks who will make the purchasing decision on her products. Marie responds, "Oh, lots of people have input. It's usually more of a group decision than any one person's, although the R&D director and the purchasing manager have the final say." 2 Leaving Gamble & Simpson, Linda is a bit overwhelmed by the possibility that all of the people she's met have input in deciding whether or not to purchase her company's products. Her first job, she decides, is to prepare an organizational chart of the Gamble & Simpson buying center to help her understand the multiple roles played by the different people. Then she will develop an overall strategy and specific tactics for developing and maintaining good relationships with all of these people.


Questions.

1. In terms of buying-center roles (initiators, gatekeepers, influencers, deciders, buyers, and users), how should Linda classify each of the seven people she met at Gamble & Simpson (Marie Doyle, Bill Constantin, Esther Hughes, Dr. Stuart Forbes, Dr. Li Chu, Fred Burnett, and Dr. Leland Birsner)? 2. Which of these people do you think has the greatest influence on purchase decisions? Why? 3. What advice would you give Linda in her efforts to think up a strategy and tactics to develop and maintain good relationships with all of these buying center members? 4. Now that her first sales call is over, what should Linda do to follow up with some or all of the Gamble & Simpson people?

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