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A Cut(co) Above – Training for Life

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Planning is key to success – if he doesn’t schedule time to make appointments, they don’t make themselves.
  3. 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.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Joyce – I work for Vector Marketing in the public relations department and your blog showed up on my Google Alerts. We always love to hear when family members are proud of their child’s decision to work with us and their resulting success. I’d love to be in touch with you directly and learn more about your son’s experience this summer. Can you please give me an email address?

    June 26, 2009
  2. Joyce Maroney #

    Stephanie –
    I’ll be happy to chat with you. You can reach me at jmaroney@kronos.com.
    Regards,
    Joyce Maroney

    July 1, 2009
  3. Russell Klosk #

    I’ll first off agree with you on the quality of the product (our Cutco knives are 10 years old and as good as the day we bought them), and I think you missed that point on having a quality product being an important part of doing business.

    Secondly I’ve always liked the honesty with Cutcos Talent Aquisition process. When candidates interview with them it is very clearly spelled out in the interview process what expectations are, what the pitfalls are, what the profit potential is, and the products they will be responsable for selling. They also take the time to talk about lead generation, and how that is accomplished to candidates who have likely never had a sales job, or at best as a retail clerk or something along those lines which is a very different beast then going and finding your customers.

    I think it would be an itneresting case study to look at Talent Management and employee development programs at Cutco and the differences between their permanent (design, manufacturing, accounting, etc.) workforce and their largerly temporary sales workforce. There are clearly lessons that others could learn from a company that has done well in a difficult market for a long time, and which continues to thrive in our age of internet sales and globalization of products.

    July 10, 2009
  4. Tracy #

    It’s awesome that your son is working for Vector Marketing! I worked for Vector Marketingwhile I was in college (6 years ago) and am so glad I did. I learned a lot from the training and my overall experience made me more confident in the workforce.

    August 5, 2009
  5. Joyce Maroney #

    Thanks for your comment, Tracy!
    Tracy
    tracyr492@yahoo.com

    It’s awesome that your son is working for Vector Marketing! I worked for Vector Marketing while I was in college (6 years ago) and am so glad I did. I learned a lot from the training and my overall experience made me more confident in the workforce.

    August 6, 2009

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