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GREEN LAWN FERTILIZER

For the past three years, John Moore was employed as an account manager by a major
oil company within the marketing division. Though this work encompassed almost every
phase of business, he was mainly concerned with three areas. First, he was responsible
for some 50 service stations and the dealers who operated them. Second, he acted as
facilitator between the oil company and his 10 wholesalers. Third, he was responsible for
real-estate development within his area. Geographically, the area of responsibility was
south-western Indiana and south-eastern Illinois. His headquarters was located in a town
some 70 miles from the companys district office. So he had personal contact with the
district manager about once a month, and sometimes less.
During his first years with the company he progressed as rapidly, or more rapidly, than
he had anticipated, Beginning with the company as a sales representative, he was by all
corporate measurements a successful salesperson and employee.
Every town in the sales area could be characterized as a farm town. Each towns
major source of income was agriculture. Each town could boast of having one or more
feed and fertilizer stores, a grain elevator, a tractor supply company, and a Farm Bureau
cooperative organization. Every citizen was to some extent dependent on agriculture for
a livelihood. The largest town in the area contained large retail outlets, which could be
characterized as discount centres.
At about the time of Johns promotion to account manager, the oil company purchased a
controlling interest in a fertilizer company. The logic in doing so was basically sound.
The lawn fertilizer industry was becoming one of the countrys leading growth industries
(with the increase in leisure time). The extrapolated economic potential was good, and
the oil company already had under its trademark some 40,000 retail outlets across the
country. It seemed like a natural combination. The philosophy of the gasoline industry
was fast becoming whatever can be put into or on the car should be sold by the service
station.
The oil company began producing a lawn fertilizer called Green Lawn. There were
many meetings held to sell the salespeople on the product and to explain this new
marketing philosophy to them. They were told that a survey had revealed that the 40,000
service stations could easily sell 50 bags per month for the two-month lawn-fertilizeruse period. It is important to remember that the salespeople were told that this is what
their stations would sell. This became then the sales quota because the district managers
had already committed themselves to the management team sent out by the home office.
During the meeting, the manager reiterated this commitment by saying, I am confident
that all the people on my team would carry the ball. The management team, of course,
reported this to the regional manager, and so forth, up the hierarchical corporate structure

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until the committed sales potential figure reached someones desk in the home office
showing that the projected quote would certainly be met. Quite naturally, this quote was
the exact amount that had been projected by the management during its analysis of the
data on which their decision to purchase the fertilizer company was predicated in the
first place. This translated into Johns being responsible for selling 2500 bags of Green
Lawn fertilizer. Since this was a new product which each rung of the managerial ladder
had committed itself to sell, the success or lack of it was carefully monitored.
Johns success in selling this product to his dealers was less than spectacular because
the season for using lawn fertilizer is very short. It lasts only about 60 to 90 days in the
spring. John Moore didnt receive his shipment of Green Lawn until the end of the first
30 days of the use period. As time went on, the pressure from management grew. After
30 days, he had to send the district manager a weekly report of the number of bags sold.
After 40 days, a biweekly report; 60 days, a tri-weekly report; 70 days, a report each
day; after 90 days, he had to phone the district manager at the end of each day to tell
him what had been sold that day and what plans were being formulated for selling the
remaining bags. At the end of 90 days, his warehouse still had 2300 bags of Green Lawn
and the phone reports became routine in content, John had expended every effort to sell
the fertilizer. Every sales technique (legal and moral) had been utilized. He had literally
run out of ideas. Not only that, but the sales area was suffering from lack of attention to
other matters. Then it came! A phone call from the district manager. During the
conversation the district manager mentioned, Johns not being on the team. Other
salespeople had already sold their quota. ( At this point John suggested that these
other salespeople might be able to sell his.) Johns salesmanship was not up to his usual
standards Lack of team spirit Perhaps there was need to re-evaluate Johns work
record possible need to replace with someone more actively involved and committed
to corporate expectations.
John was then faced with a dilemma not of his own making. It was obviously impossible
to sell the rest of the fertilizer to the service-station dealers. The dist4rict manager
implied that, if Moore wanted to retain his job, he had to sell the 2300 bags left in the
warehouse. The use season was over; therefore, demand for this product was over.
Given these factors, there were several alternatives available.

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2.
3.

John could resign from the company.


He could wait and see what steps, if any, management would take.
He could do what is called wheeling and dealing. This is the
salespersons survival device.

John chose the third alternative. He was all too familiar with this device, and reluctant to
use it. It involved an approach to the problem that was ethically questionable. Most
salespeople know that no matter how much rationalization is used, this device is often
unsound.

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The method John chose was quite simple. The 10 wholesalers that he called on were
equally divided between consignees and distributors.
The oil company provided
consignees with certain farm equipment which they in turn loaned to farm accounts. This
equipment included above-ground gasoline tanks. When a consignee informed John that
he had a farm tank that needed replacing, John simply charged it off and ordered a
replacement. There was no check on the disposition of the old tank. Nor was there an
inspection of the old tank; it was only necessary to take the consignees word.
John would go to each of his distributors and ask them to buy the fertilizer from him;
then he would given them an equal value of overhead farm tanks. This would be done
by charging off nonexistent farm gasoline tanks in consignee areas and ordering new
ones. That is, the one charged off were only charged off on paper. The consignees did
not actually lose any farm tanks. When the tanks arrived at the consignees place of
business John would inform the respective distributors who would then pick them up.
This would satisfy management because the Green Lawn fertilizer would shown up on
the records as having been sold. John had used this device several times before.
Like all rationalizations, the more it is done, the easier it becomes to do it. The district
manager complemented Moore on the sale of the fertiliser, saying, I knew you could do
it, youre a real team member.