2009 Student Writing Contest Case

As a regional sales manager for a national logistics company, you have 12 salespeople throughout your region who report to you. These salespeople formerly worked from various offices that housed other administrative functions. However, as part of a recent cost reduction initiative, the company has closed offices and centralized all administrative functions at the corporate office in Chicago. Salespeople now work out of home offices and therefore are responsible for producing their own correspondence without assistance from an administrative secretary to help with correspondence and other communication issues.

As copies of internal memos and letters to customers from your salespeople cross your desk, you are shocked at the awkward wording and lack of clarity, not to mention the numerous grammar and punctuation errors. E-mail is even worse. You are concerned about the impact on your company’s image.

Last week, during a meeting of the local chapter of Sales and Marketing Executives, you heard a presentation by a communication consultant, Stella Wilson, who specializes in coaching salespeople on writing skills. She made a strong case on how organizations pay a price in wasted time, wasted efforts, and lost goodwill when writing isn’t as good as it could be. Her company, Write Right, offers classes and individual coaching.

You arranged a meeting with Stella and gave her some writing samples from your salespeople. You were impressed with her critique of the writing and her thoughts on how the writing could be improved. Her process calls for a 2-day workshop followed by individual coaching by phone and e-mail. She’s not cheap. The workshop for 12 salespeople would cost $4,000 and a 90-day retainer for follow-up coaching another $2,000. The cost includes a pre- and post-training evaluation. There is also the cost of travel, hotel, meeting room, and meals for the 2-day event – expenses that could easily add up to another $6,000, not to mention the cost of time away from the job. This type of expense is not in your budget, but you think you can make a case for the workshop to your boss based on the benefits of the training. You also assume that other Regional VPs in the country are having a similar problem. Perhaps your region can serve as a pilot for the company for this type of training.

Stella left you some brochures that explain the features and benefits of her services. You checked her references and her clients gave her rave reviews.


Write a memo to your supervisor, Fritz Geschwend, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, asking for approval and funds to conduct the training as a “pilot” project. You have a good relationship with Mr. Geschwend and know, though he is tough-minded and no-nonsense, he is willing to try new things if he sees a potential payoff, even in tight budget times.

*Case developed and submitted by Gary L. May, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Management, School of Business, Clayton State University, Morrow, GA 30260