When people leave a company, often all their knowledge leaves with them. When each salesperson handles 100 or more accounts, losing any one salesperson can spell disaster. Not so at Professional Salon Concepts (PSC), a $6.5-million supplier of hair-care products and services to small beauty salons.

The Joliet, Ill., company designed a special folder that includes all the client information -- such as the dollar volume of the opening purchase, lines carried, recent orders, and even directions to customers' salons -- that a new salesperson could want. Not exactly high tech, but having the files on hand has made it easier to bring new hires up to speed. "Each client becomes more tangible, and that creates confidence," says CEO Steve Cowan. In 1991 PSC experienced turnover and didn't lose ground.

The front of the folder lists the address, phone number, operating hours, and contact at the salon. There too, PSC salespeople, called consultants, record the client's participation in promotions and classes offered by PSC and the product manufacturers; they also note the size of the salon and its first order.

Inside the folder consultants record which products in the PSC line the salon doesn't stock, and "per-client averages" stating the dollar amount purchased each month and the number of orders. Those averages determine the salon's ranking in that sales territory. A big drop in ranking is cause for concern: if a salon orders six times in February and one time in March, that can wreak havoc with PSC's cash flow; it can also indicate cash-management problems at the salon. PSC then works to regularize orders. Consultants color-code folders as a top, middle, bottom, or inactive account, according to their ranking, so anyone at PSC who picks up the folder knows just where a particular customer stands.

-- Researched by Michael P. Cronin