I associate middle age as remembering “The Partridge Family” and “All In the Family”. Growing up in the seventies and early eighties, technology was slowing emerging into modern day family lives. The impact that communication technologies have had on sales is unmistakable. While there are no doubt hundreds of benefits, with each new technological introduction the face to face meeting becomes that much harder to acquire.
The first thing to really impact me was the beeper. This seemingly magical device would allow someone to call your assigned number and suddenly your hip would vibrate indicating who wanted you to call them. Prior to this awesome invention, if someone needed you they had the arduous task of calling all of your family and friends in a weak attempt to track you down. It was a version of hunting I presume, and sometimes the hunted did not want to be found! If was very easy to avoid being caught and the old excuse was that you where just around the corner.
On the business front similar things happened, they would call your office and leave a message for you to call them. Your office would have to track you down and look for you, part of your job requirement back in those days was to “call in” every few hours to see who may have called for you. Once again very easy to avoid being caught or found and no one really knew what you were doing all day.
Next up was the satellite mobile telephone. This was big, awkward, heavy and totally high tech. The phone which was carried in that inconvenient box, allowed you to have access to all incoming calls and allowed you to be found 24 hours a day. In turn, you could return any call right where you were at, no more searching for a pay phone to use. Long gone was the day when you could hide just around the corner. The drawbacks were many, expensive, large and heavy, with a short term battery that had to be recharged frequently and horrible reception in bad weather!
The next invention was the car phone. I will keep this short, a phone that you could only use in your car. Simple enough. When you were in your car you could use the phone and avoid the dreaded pay phones. Everyone could call you direct and leave a message for you on your phone “voice mail” and avoid having to call your office looking for you. You could still hide out by saying that you were not in your car and busy working or selling. The drawbacks were few, expensive to operate and very limited in mobility.
At long last, the hand held cellular phone was introduced to the world. It is a very light, small, mobile piece of equipment that could be carried in your pocket or women’s purses. As it continues to evolve, it has become a necessity for all business. Communication by texting and shopping online are just a few of the thousands of applications the phone is now used for. Buying and selling and customer relationships are forever changed. Marketing is now the name of the game with creative techniques taken front and center. Sure your message needs to be accurate, but if there isn’t some angle of entertainment on some level, it gets lost in the noise.
Acquiring new business that once relied on person to person meetings, is that much more difficult as everything is re-searchable right at your fingertips. You can be anywhere…work from anywhere…making it harder for a sales person to meet with you.
Something as seemingly mundane as office supplies is now almost exclusively virtual. Every order that processed is through an online portal. Talented and knowledgeable outside sales people are all but extinct. Why? There talents are no longer necessary. The causality of technology. Those hoping to survive will need to market in new ways despite how uncomfortable it may be at first. Forget delivering a heavy and quickly outdated catalog. It’s a new and ever changing world. It started with enhancements to our communication and has no end in sight. These are exciting times indeed.