Representor Fall 2023 - Marketing Group Digest

Marketing Group Digest


Troy Gunnin
Sun Rep Inc.
Tampa, Fla.

A half century of insight

Where has the time gone? By the time you read this it will be the 4th quarter of 2023. As I thought about this, I looked back at the half century I have been in this amazing business and thought that perhaps for the “newcomers” (25 years or less) that I would share some insight into the “olden days.”

A normal week would start with a detailed travel plan for the week. That would include ensuring that the trunk of your car was stocked with current literature and samples for the week’s sales calls. If the calls were out of town, you probably left home early on Monday morning and would return on Friday. Your GPS was a box containing maps of all the cities in your territory. You knew the best hotels to stay in every town and got to know the desk clerks on a first name basis. You always had a pocket full of quarters and knew the location of every pay phone in the territory. Many of your customers became good friends, and with some, you got to know their families. It was indeed a person-to-person business.

If you were calling on general line distributors, you would likely do inventories and write (yes, physically write) purchase orders. In most cases you would accumulate the orders and at the end of the trip, separate by principal and mail (yep, snail mail) the orders to the various factories. Expect to put 40,000 or more miles on your car each year. That’s a lot of windshield time. You got to know factory personnel personally when you spent a lot of time together in the car and evenings at hotels. Many became friends as well as business associates. I look back and realize that those were great times and lifelong friendships were established that have endured through the years.

Fast forward to 2023. It’s an instantaneous environment. Compare the snail mail orders with being able to order it in the morning and have it delivered by afternoon (and if you are Amazon Prime, probably free shipping). How long has it been since you saw a payphone? Many sales calls are electronic — Zoom, Teams, etc. Gone are the days with a trunk full of literature, it’s all in electronic format. Product demos can be done online, eliminating in many cases the need for those cumbersome demo cases. Along the way, the fax machine became an important means of placing orders and communicating. How long has it been since you sent or received a fax? Do you even have a fax machine now?

You “newbies” of today will be the “old timers” in a few years. Can we even imagine what you will pass along to the next generation? I’m not even going to go there. I can only look to the future in awe when I see the changes that I have experienced.