Just Like the Good Old Days

purchase order email graphic

Just like how the smell of a freshly baked cookie inspired author Marcel Proust to write an entire book — “Remembrances of Things Past” – I just had an experience that inspired waves of nostalgia.

I was in the middle of my early morning get-started-for-work routine, which includes things like firing up the remote desktop and quickly browsing the government RFQ portal. Then, after opening Outlook, my day began with a big purchase order emailed from one of my dealers.

Receiving purchase orders via email happens all the time, but it was the timing of it — first thing in the morning — that triggered reminiscences. A long time ago, I used to go in early to work at Sony. And the reason for going in early was because that was when the fax machine would light up and start printing out purchase orders from one of our big corporate accounts. (Now that I think about it, I don’t think anyone has tried to fax me a PO in ten years or more.)

Back in those days at Sony, because of how we were organized, those accounts didn’t belong to any one of us, as such. That’s why you wanted to jump on them when the fax came through. For that matter, back in that era, once a month an envelope would come from head office. In it was a list, generated and printed off there, then mailed out to us. (I know that sounds ridiculous. It was the 1990s, okay?)

What was the list? It was GOLD. It was a printout of every client whose SonyCare extended warranties were up for renewal. In other words, they were leads. Pre-qualified leads. Usually, they were prosumers with expensive video cameras who, when you called them to ask if they wanted two more years of warranty would say yes and give you their credit card over the phone.

Getting your hands on that list first, and making calls off of it would set your month off to a great start. But first, you had to get your hands on it, one way or another. It was a very “Glengarry Glenn Ross” situation. And while the management team didn’t tacitly encourage such piratical behavior they didn’t exactly discourage it, either.

The world has changed, and the way we do business has changed. I don’t get POs by fax, nor does any head office I know of still mail things to their branches. I do get POs emailed to me a few times a week, but most of my dealers place their orders themselves through our online portal.

I did recently have an in-person meeting that was very old school. It was a new account that just signed up, so I drove out to meet them for the first time. That in itself is only a little old school and not unusual. Phone calls and video meetings are great and all, but it’s still important to meet people for the first time and get to know them in person.
What made it old school was that what started as mostly a social, get-to-know-you visit turned into a sales call. That conversation sparked my new account to place an order in person with me for a dozen new things.

That experience took me way back to when I was working in retail, and the vendor reps would come into the store with order pads, checking off six of these, six of those, a dozen of these, etc. Obviously, I don’t have a paper order pad, but I did make notes on my phone and email them to my assistant to process. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.