Sales in the 80’s: What can we learn?

I was born into a family of entrepreneurs. My father started his IT Networking company in a small office out of in our garage in Northern California. Seventeen years later, he is still committed as the first day in our garage. What was originally a one man show has since developed into a team of fifty out of Bishop Ranch Business Park in San Ramon, California. But behind every successful man is a successful women. She not only is an incredible mother, but she was the catalyst of my father’s startup. My mother is the ideal, hardworking salesperson.

Without her, my father’s energy to create an innovative, technology driven company and the resources behind him would not have all come together. People seem to forget that salespeople, and not necessarily the CEO or founder, are the ones who help funnel the growth of any given company, product, or idea. My mother helps prove that “a company is only as good as its people.” Needless to say, my mom has endured years of selling in good and bad economies and has been a key component of my father’s success at his company. 

Silicon Valley History

My mother started working in Silicon Valley in 1985. At this time Silicon Valley was booming and exciting. Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Apple, and many more companies were starting up. HP and IBM were already established as the companies to beat.

Most of the entrepreneurs in the valley came from Stanford, and other local California Educational Institutions. Women in sales were a minority at that time in Silicon Valley. The fax machine had just been purchased at my mother’s company and they considered it a marvel to get a “Purchase Order” from a customer within the same day, as opposed to waiting for the US Postal System. Most communication, contracts, Master Service Agreements and Purchase Orders that took as long as 5-7 days through the US Mail system. It was just not as instantaneous as selling today.

Most sales were closed via phone calls and face-to-face meetings, and most appointments were set up by calling the customer from desk phones.

Selling was all relationship-based and you scheduled many lunches and dinners with your clients. The sale was generally written on a cocktail napkin.

Email communication was just starting up, and there was no internet to speak of in the 1980s. The carphone was considered a luxury: you could close a sale while driving to and from work and at the same time check in on your family on your two hour commute. My mother emphasized that most salespeople worked until 10PM at night and enjoyed it.  It was necessary to work long hours to reach your sales goals for your company.

Working at that time was considered a career, not a job. Multi-tasking was the key to success at that time. There was no wireless phones and no corner Starbucks to work from. There was no telecommuting. There was no email communication, no software applications to track your sales and your customers, and no websites or social media on the horizon. Programmers were in high demand and considered “Gods” in that time period.  You were expected to complete cold calls (100-200 daily) and schedule many outside meetings day after day. There was no Wireless Infrastructure or video conferencing, WEbX, or “Gotomeeting.” No Google, no YouTube, blogging, or texting. And not to mention no ToutApp.

It was not a 24×7 real time world like it is today, and you were not constantly being interrupted or distracted as in today’s fast-paced, complicated business world. As someone who sold in the 1980s and was lucky to live and be a part of Silicon Valley ‘s emergence in all its glory, I found the growing technology fascinating.

Today, technology is able to do so much more. We are far more interconnected globally than we were decades ago. We are able to reach a larger audience, more companies, and more decision makers in any given week. Entrepreneurs can grow their company in 1-2 years, rather than 10 years. More entrepreneurs have a chance to be just that.

What can we learn?

Although the art of sales has evolved over decades and had to change alongside its technology, it will continue to evolve at an even faster pace. A salesperson must always be ready to adapt… and they typically do, due to their resilience, drive, and passion for their work. Even if you are one of those in sales that do not consider yourselves as  “technically savvy” just remember what really matters: where there is a will, there is a way. And in order for a company to truly be successful, they must have a strong, passionate, and hungry salesforce to bring them to success. A good salesperson has conviction that what they are offering will greatly add to the prospects’ life, belief that this is the best offer the prospect can choose and determination to communicate that they are right.

P.S. Are you touting yet?