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  • Will O'Brien

Friday sales story for lunchtime

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

First Tech job back in the day – Part 1

Work in Tech for me began on 1st March 1986 as a Payroll Systems Consultant working for a £10 million Manufacturing and Logistics Software Company. I knew nothing about software, nothing about Payroll, but it looked glamorous and well paid ! Salary was £9,000 and my car was a Ford Escort 1.6 GL with electric windows and a tape player !


We had 30 people in the Leeds office with 8 sales staff and 3 leasing salesmen who offering computer leasing solutions for mid sized companies.


It was in a time before we had pre sales teams to lean on and you had to do software demos on your own. Two to three hour as a “consultant” navigating green screen menus – Set up employee ID, Gross to net calculation, Terminate employee.


The time was pre internet, pre mobile, pre mobile apps, pre lap tops, pre e-mail, pre LinkedIn, pre e-commerce, pre SAP R/3, pre Oracle SaaS, pre Dynamics 365, Digital was the name of a computer company, and Amazon was a forest.


You could smoke in the office but had to wear a suit and tie. Beards and stubble were not an option but lunchtime drinking was. Street food was something tramps ate and Vegan food was for communes. Business development was pretty much the 8 sales guys scrolling through “Key British Enterprises” contacting various souls in need of our services.


You never took “no” for an answer and would always aim high. One deranged rep actually wrote to Michael Heseltine, the Industry Cabinet Minister, when he lost a bid at the Post Office demanding an audience complaining the evaluation team were incompetent.


Sales meetings were all about number of approaches, number of tenders, number of meetings / presentations, and number of orders. Nothing stopped these weekly interrogations even when one of the reps was late due to a fatal car crash on the A1. The world continued despite the trauma at Scotch Corner and the rep was told to sit down and never be late again.


In those very early days a rep I’ll call “Frank” deliberately crashed his car into another vehicle in a parking lot because someone “cut him up”. I heard this story being retold by “Frank” whilst he hurtled at 105 mph in his white Audi with one hand on the steering wheel giving me the benefit of his “direct” sales approach. I thought he was insane and was praying to make it to my next birthday.

SO WHAT HAVE I LEARNED SINCE 1986 ?


The world has changed massively for sales people in terms of productivity and speed but many of the basics are still the same. We equip a new rep with a smart phone, laptop, masses of customer information, mobile apps, world class software products but managers are still asking for the same things – how many, how much, and when ?


What else has changed ? Well beards are now cool and the workforce has become more diverse with younger people serving the sector from all walks of life. Sales does not discriminate and is based on meritocracy. Success is not about class, background, or who you know. It is about individual talent, determination, sheer hard work and that still applies today.


We still employ a number of “Franks” or people with extreme approaches but fortunately most are retiring. The other thing is that customers won’t give you 15 minutes if your proposition is irrelevant. They won’t even take your calls or your beautifully crafted intro message. As the world gets even more busy we are in forgetting the basics of what sales is about. Is our job to make people like us or is it something invented by the Challenger sales factory ? More to come ….

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