One of the consequences of growing older is saying good bye to friends you have made along the way. Word reached me this week that one of the best salesmen I ever worked with had booked a “tee time on the other side.” Over the years the sales side of our industry has changed as much as the technical side; unfortunately many people don’t appreciate the dedication of the veteran salespeople in the days before the Internet and E-mail made customer contact so much more immediate.
I’ve blogged before about the sales manager at Quaker City Gearworks and his amazing card catalog of government part numbers. My late friend, Paul E. Seipel, and his contemporaries combined that attention to record keeping with sincere personal relationships to secure business at dozens of mines, mills, and machine builders over careers that lasted forty or fifty years.
That was forty or fifty years of waiting in lobbies, supporting golf outings and holiday parties, helping customers manage spare inventories, tracking the movement of people, technology, and equipment from location to location. Forty and fifty years of knowing who was next in line to make purchasing decisions. Forty and fifty years of sending birthday cards, sympathy cards, retirement cards, and maintaining personal contacts despite late deliveries, cancelled purchase orders, late payments, bankruptcies, and plant closures.
Most of the “plant-based” workforce never saw the effort this marketing required. The long hours on the road, the nights away from home, the missed children’s events, and the lectures from unhappy customers were seldom discussed. Commission-based compensation often got reduced by jealous home office executives. Accounts that took years to develop got changed to “house accounts” just as they started to pay off. Yet these professionals soldiered on and our shops hummed with full order books.
So let me go on record as thanking Paul and his compatriots, living and dead, for securing the orders that kept me busy. A wise man once reminded that nothing really happens until somebody asks for the damn order. They can’t say “yes” unless you ask and without that “yes” we all starve.