In the early 90s I was working for a finance company as an account executive (that’s ‘salesman’ in bank speak). I hated it, it hated me and I was terrible at it. Most of the staff were bank people and we had absolutely nothing in common – in particular the concept of having a musician working there was deeply weird to them. Fortunately for all concerned, in 1993 the company had the good sense to pay me to go away and thus it was, via happy chance, that I went to LMC Audio.
I had owned and operated the PA in my bands for years and so had a basic understanding of what went where, but still the learning curve was very steep. I had to simultaneously get to grips with the components, operation and core principles of professional audio systems while finding my feet in a completely new industry and trying not to demonstrate my ignorance. However, the dealership environment was friendly and supportive plus the majority of customers were patient, so in due course I gained both an appreciation of what went where and more importantly, an understanding of how the business worked.
While you are no doubt fascinated by my early career in pro audio, the point of this reverie is that I understand from various sources that many manufacturers, distributors and dealers are finding it hard to recruit sales people. Given my experiences and everything that our business has to offer to people with the right background, I find this hard to comprehend.
As long as there are companies who supply the production industry, there will be a need for skilled people to develop and maintain those essential B2B links. (Actually, I realised long ago that there aren’t really any sales people in this business, because most end users are experts. Throughout my sales career I supplied equipment to people who knew far more about the kit than I did, so the job was really about relationship management, common sense and a willingness to put oneself out.)
Perhaps the sales side of the industry doesn’t make itself accessible enough to younger people with a background in music. Perhaps potential employers needing sales people have neither the time nor the resources to train people up to the necessary standard – that might be a valid commercial viewpoint but it’s also short-sighted if true. Numerous leading hire operations (notably Brit Row, Adlib and others) have taken a lead in training the next generation of technicians and the supply side of the business arguably has a similar responsibility.
I know that many of my contemporaries wandered into the business via routes similar to mine, and also that many of them, like me, have moved fairly freely and frequently between sales roles. I’d hate to think that us oldies are clogging up opportunities for the next generation…
Dave Wiggins is a freelance marketeer and pro-audio pundit.