In the beginning…
I want to dig into our book Shiftability and extract some key points for your consideration over the next few weeks. Let’s start at the beginning of this whole journey for many of us…. The story below is a direct extract from the manuscript of Shiftability so you will see the third-person perspective in the writing….
In the beginning, there were people who made stuff and people who needed stuff. Then there were the peddlers of stuff who helped the makers and the buyers find each other.
The peddlers of stuff were very successful for hundreds of years because the makers and buyers needed them. Stuff was bought and sold and everyone was okay.
Then things changed.
That Was Then …
It was a typically warm and sunny Arizona day. The cloudless blue skies seemed to go on forever as Mitch drove across the desert out of Phoenix on one of his monthly sales trips to Las Vegas. This time was a bit different. Mitch’s usual mode of transportation was his bright silver Audi 5000T. This day he was behind the wheel of a bright orange and white rental truck from U-Haul.
The two-ton box on wheels was loaded front to back and fully to the ceiling with high tech data. But this was not data as we think of it today. This was technical product information contained in hundreds of copies of technical documents, printed and bound in books from various manufacturers. These were called data books. In the technical sales trade, they were almost as good as gold. Electrical engineers would go to almost any means needed to get their hands on their favorite manufacturers’ data books.
And Mitch had an entire truckload of them.
He was on his way to a government contractor in Nevada. This was a tough account to get into to talk with even just a few of their thousands of engineers. But Mitch had found that if he set up shop in the parking lot with a truckload of data books, over a couple of days nearly every engineer in the company would come out to visit him. They could pick and choose from any of the dozens of manufacturers that he represented and take any data books they needed. All he asked was that they grant him access at a later date. Through Mitch’s semi-annual book drive he built one heck of a contact Rolodex.
This was 1977 and the electronics industry was in its infancy. Apple Computer had just incorporated, Star Wars had just opened and set new records, and Elvis had just left the building. At the time Mitch was a Field Sales Engineer working for Wyle Electronics, one of the largest distributors of electronic components in the industry. They represented and sold semiconductors for Motorola, Intel, Fairchild, and many others. They also sold a variety of electromechanical products like connectors and switches and passive products such as capacitors. Wyle represented the best of the best.
In these early days of the electronics industry, a salesperson working in the distribution world was viewed as a great source of information. Customers eagerly welcomed sales reps whether they were bringing in data books or doughnuts. At that time the only real source of technical product information was the printed material that the various manufacturers created. There was no Internet. This was a time known as BCP (Before Cell Phones). Electronic messages between companies were sent through a system called a TWX or a Telex. Fax machines were just becoming real. The human was the primary means of conveying the realities of the fast-moving electronics industry.
Every Monday night after work Mitch’s sales team would meet with various manufacturers over pizza and beer and hear all about what wonderful new technologies and products they were about to bring to market. They would check out the new technical literature and sometimes they would even score the ever-elusive “sample” that they could deliver to a really important client.
Life was grand and the role of sales professionals had maximum meaning and purpose. They were the kings and queens of data. Not just data, but data everything. They had data sheets, data books, data libraries, and data brochures. They had copies of advertising, which was just more data. They had product data, solution data, reliability data, and eventually, data CDs.
Not only did sales reps have all of the data known to the technical world, but they also had free products they called samples. They had samples to hand out for specific client projects, they had sample kits, they had product sample packs and solution sample packs. They even had product demo boards, product evaluation kits, and full demo system solutions. They had development systems and emulation tools. And even more importantly the sales rep had CONTROL of it. It was theirs to gift to their favorite clients, theirs to spread out, move around, and use to build relationships.
Sales reps also had control of the feedback on the use of the products and samples. They controlled the communication to the client and the communication back to the manufacturer of the products. The sales rep had it all – all the data, all the products, and all of the control.
That was then …
This Is Now …
Flash forward to today.
The electronics industry is thriving, the Star Wars franchise is still going strong, Apple is one of the premier companies in the world, and today the sales professional is on the verge of leaving the building.
We are no longer the kings and queens of data. Our customers do not need us to bring them information. They have the Internet for that. A revolution of massive disruption and disintermediation is underway.
And this changes everything.
And since its creation just 4 short years ago, and considering the Covid world changes we are making, Shiftability has become more critical and timely than ever! The premise of the work is that the world has changed greatly….have you. It's time to shift into a new reality that challenges our limiting beliefs.
There is a new urgency to figuring out how to stay relevant, how to stand up and push back to return the sales conversation to value with the right people, and to discover how to operate in today’s economy.
The landscape of selling has changed dramatically and it continues to change rapidly. How do you navigate this uncharted territory? How do you chart a course through this changing landscape? You have to learn how to shift …Shift into different abilities.
Shift onto a new plane of performance.
Shift into a deeper understanding of the value and your role in creating it.
Shift into a new mindset.
Shift into a new skillset.
Most of all, you have to be willing to shift and choose to move forward, even though the way is not clear. You have to cultivate shiftability.
We will dig into the specifics of how…. As we take this journey.
If you want to get the answers sooner, feel free to buy a copy of Shiftability from Amazon, knowing that ALL of the profits of the sale of the book go to a great charity… Charitywater.org. We are helping to provide water sources to those places in the world that do not have good ones.
Ok. So, let’s ROLL!