Please excuse me if I take another trip down ‘memory lane’, but it’s now more than ten years since I retired, and I often look back on my years of
hard work pissing about in the often exhilarating wacky world of sales and sales management (I’ve got a certificate to prove it !), and when I remember the companies who employed me and the people I’ve worked with; one place and time stands out in my memory … London in the mid-1970’s !
Yes, it was wide lapels, flared trousers, kipper ties and silly haircuts, and I was sales manager for a small up-market company with a head office and showroom located in a glass tower block in London’s ‘West End’. My office was a bit ‘Mad Men’ with smoked glass walls, fashionable black, chrome and leather furniture, and a well stocked drinks cabinet with a large copy of Lichtenstein’s ‘Whaam!‘ hanging above it.
force team line-up consisted of a diverse bunch which included a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness, an arty-farty designer, a nice but nutty Irishman, a couple of ‘Jack the Lads’ and a sexy ‘Sloane Ranger’. All very bright people, but like many, they had found their way into sales after failing to make a good living elsewhere.
Now, you have to understand that this was not a ‘foot in the door’ type of selling, but more of a ‘hard day at the restaurant or wine bar’ type of selling. Not exactly what you would be taught to handle on one of those hilarious sales courses (remember all those carbon paper salesmen?) where they played idiotic games and showed John Cleese training films.
Experience taught me that success in selling often came from being honest with your clients, having good contacts and ‘being in the right place at the right time’: and, although I can’t swear to it, I believe a large brown paper envelope often came in handy.
My boss was a character: an old style ‘wheeler dealer’ from an ‘East End’ Jewish family, “a real mensch” with a great sense of humour. If he attended a sales meeting you were sure to increase your knowledge of the Yiddish language and have a highly amusing time. He always had grand plans and sent me to the USA to check out the market …
(note the ‘flares’ and the lack of a smartphone)
Unfortunately, when I returned to London, other ‘grand plans’ had led him into financial trouble and the old firm was about to go ‘tits up’, so sadly I learned another Yiddish word …
… ‘Mechuleh’ … and moved on to ‘pastures new’ !