Not long ago I bumped into an Optometrist who worked in an Ophthalmology office I called on many years ago. He told me whenever he hears someone mention my name, the big, brown, leather briefcase I always had slung over my shoulder when I visited their office comes to his mind.
I told him I was grateful he remembered me for something, we had a pleasant conversation and agreed to keep in touch. When we were parting, he asked me, “What happened to that briefcase? I always liked it.”
I replied, “It’s retired.” He chuckled and wished me well.
Here’s the briefcase as it is today. Tucked away safely in a storage room in my basement. I earned a small fortune carrying this briefcase and for that I am grateful. I will always keep it as a reminder of from where I came.
Times have changed. Is the simple act of carrying a briefcase a casualty of a bygone era in business? I hope so.
While I look back fondly on my time carrying my briefcase, there are many aspects of doing this I do not miss.
My doctor once told me my posture was beginning to be affected by how I carried my briefcase. It was heavy, I had a lot of important stuff in there I needed to carry around as a surgical products sales representative.
During a sales call, I had to reach into my bag, find the appropriate piece of collateral and resume the discussion. A Sales Manager may have said, “Joel, you should pre-plan your sales call and have all of your collateral needed readily available.” Agreed. Sort of.
My selling style is one more of discovery than manipulation. I agree with the value of pre-call planning, having a business agenda for a call and being prepared to discuss these items.
The key is flexibility because a sales call almost never goes as planned. That’s the fun part of selling, right? Solving the equation.
This is where the briefcase becomes an impediment more than an asset. What if the prospect asks me about something I hadn’t considered in my pre-call planning? Saying I can get back to them is acceptable, but less than ideal.
Also, by following up later, I miss an opportunity to be of service and solve a problem for the prospect that is occupying her mind right now. That’s sales gold.
Enter technology. In 1979, Trevor Horn wrote a song, performed by The Buggles, called, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Perhaps someone will write a song titled, “iPad Killed the Briefcase.”