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Principles of Marketing

Closing Company Case

Principles of MarketingClosing Company Case


In 1949, Cutco began manufacturing knives in Olean, New York. At the time, Cutco was making products for Wear-Ever Aluminum, a division of Alcoa. In 1982, the company went through a management buyout that made it a private company. The Cutco name was derived from the time under Alcoa, when it existed as the Cooking Utensil Company.

For the past 70 years, Cutco has been a family business that prides itself on being made in America.15 The company has a deep-rooted commitment to providing American jobs. Through quality of craftsmanship, the Cutco products are an American staple in many kitchens, and they are the reliable cookware of choice for many home cooks.

Through its commitment to service and quality, Cutco has one of the leading guarantees in the industry. All Cutco products are backed by The Forever Guarantee. No matter how the consumer acquired the product—self purchase or gift—the products come with a lifetime performance guarantee, which includes free sharpening. If at any time the customer is not satisfied with the performance, Cutco will correct or replace the product. Because Cutco relies on lifetime customers and word-of-mouth referrals, its primary responsibility is to customer satisfaction.16

While Cutco has 15 retail stores in the United States, it has long relied on its sales force through Vector Marketing. For years, Vector has hired and mentored a mostly collegiate sales force. In fact, 85 percent of the Vector sales force is comprised of college students.

Vector Marketing is a single-level direct sales company, and it sells only Cutco. The relationship between Vector and Cutco dates back to 1985. Early in the 1980s, Vector Marketing was an independent seller of Cutco. Because of Vector’s success, Cutco bought it to replicate the success it was having with Cutco’s product.17

The Vector Marketing home office is in Olean, New York—by its parent, Cutco. It also operates 250 independent locations throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. However, during its busy summer months, when students everywhere are working to earn money for college, Vector Marketing has over 300 temporary locations.

Because of the weekly pay, flexible schedules, and superior sales training, tens of thousands of college students have experienced the joy of cutting a penny with the kitchen shears or slicing through a piece of extra-thick rope courtesy of the sharp Cutco blades. Hundreds of thousands of family kitchens across North America have watched the sales demonstration, asked good questions, provided referrals, and purchased a set of Cutco knives and kitchen accessories.

Vector Marketing works hard to recruit, educate, train, and incentivize its sales force. The hardworking Vector Marketing sales representatives know that up for grabs is a total of $40,000 to full-time undergraduate students who sell the most—the top 50 students get this award every summer. Vector also gives a guaranteed base pay and even pays the student for the appointment, regardless of whether they make the sale. The company doesn’t want a reputation for high-pressure sales although they do pay commissions. Vector Marketing and Cutco realize only satisfied customers are repeat and referral customers.

When the Vector Marketing sales representative calls to set up the appointment, they courteously ask about when the customer can view the Cutco presentation. When you are in the presentation, the sales representative will go through a carefully scripted and rehearsed presentation, which will take you through the features and the related customer benefits afforded with ownership of your Cutco blades.

Throughout the presentation, the potential customer is asked if they have questions and, further, what they think of the various Cutco knives and accessories they have been shown. At the end of the presentation, the potential customer is intentionally asked which pieces they are going to buy, and they are encouraged to make the purchase by being offered an additional incentive Cutco tool as a gift with purchase.

Most of the prescreened customers have come to the Vector Marketing representative by way of a close friend or family member. Not only is Cutco an undisputed superior product with a lifetime guarantee, but the quality of the link from the customer back to the sales representative helps to solidify the sale. Saying no is very difficult. Almost all objections have already been eradicated.

After the presentation is over, the order has been placed, and the sales representative is closing up the meeting, they ask for 10 referrals. All good sales representatives know that the best customer is a word-of-mouth referral.

Check out the Cutco website and the Vector Marketing website.

Case Questions

1 .
How would you classify the type of sales force utilized by Cutco?
2 .
What is the presentation style utilized in selling Cutco?
3 .
Describe the compensation structure for the Vector Marketing Cutco sales force.
4 .
Explain how the Vector Marketing sales team develops relationships with its customers?
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