A lot can be learned about a sales force by listening to salespeople's stories. For example, upon graduating from college, four friends—Eric, Julia, Matthew, and Natalie—joined different sales forces in diverse parts of the country. A year later, they reunited at a friend's wedding. They all had stories to tell about their new careers and the companies they worked for. The most interesting stories showed the contrasts among the different sales force cultures they had experienced.

Eric went to work for a very large business-to-business distributor. His company was in the maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) supplies business. He sold supplies to buildings and work sites. The company's catalog had more than 500,000 items including ...

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