After his National Service my father’s first job was salesman at Commercial Plastics Ltd, up in the north east of England. Commercial Plastics went on to be acquired by Unilever, back in the days when companies in-sourced.
I’ve still got some of his sales materials, including the daily report that had to be filled out to show work completed and miles driven. He had to carbon-copy it, of course. (Gen Y or Z readers click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_copy).
The paperwork is a world away from the mobile systems now produced for salespeople to record their activities. Mileage is collected automatically, calls are often auto-scheduled. The interesting thing about my dad’s paperwork is that time in/time out was not recorded: perhaps the modern obsession with time efficiency has gone too far, since at the end of the day what matters is new customers and orders taken.
What’s fascinating is how little really changes. My collection of salesforce manuals and handbooks has been acquired from second-hand bookshops over the past couple of decades; and much of what I see in one from 1908 still applies to every sales team out there today.
Marie Antoinette is reputed to have said “There is nothing new except that which has been forgotten”. It certainly seems to apply to managing sales teams, when I look at the past and compare to the present.
Come to think of it, if only Marie Antoinette’s influence on sales techniques had been more pronounced… we’d be showing our prospects a dazzling array of cake charts.