Fax, Dems & 4-Mins Sold

Much hullabalah in England as the requirement enabling fax machine comms is announced as dropped.

Oh those heady days when the sales office fax of thirty years back would fire up its distinctive screech, and all the farmers would race to it shouting 'order!'

I myself recall the affirmation of receiving buying signals in physical embodiment, the usefulness of knowing what colleagues' prospects' issues where when flicking through the pile of as yet unclaimed sheets in the feeder and, ahem, the furtive frisson from seeing a declaration d'amour arrive for my attention.

But then came email attachments. And the demise, as well as all manner of new options, began to speed.

The only reason it seemed to cling on for so long, was the desire for a physical specimen of a signature. Digital versions of which were first accepted in law (in the UK) I believe around 2002. Although relying on this in B2B took a fair few more years to take hold.

Yet I was delighted to learn how this all came about. Who knew that the proto-fax predated the telephone by an astonishing forty years? Rush forward another century and we're indebted for London's Daily Mail for sharing an ad from 1973.

Rank Xerox thought they'd developed a winner. And eagerly sought salespeople. The resulting full-page ad remains a marvel to this day.

Beyond the 'new product' interest in the failure of them to get their term 'telecopier' adopted by the market, which chose instead a first syllable abbreviation of the word 'facsimile', examine the hiring pitch.

The headline is that you've a 'four-minute demo' that will sell itself.

Seeing is believing. What exec could turn down being at the vanguard of such a 'revolution'? Business at the speed of print.

Yet there's a caveat or three.

First, only 'high calibre' salespeople (well, salesmen, actually, welcome to the 70s) need apply.

Traits that define such exalted status include 'enough imagination to see the ... tremendous potential'.

As well as understanding 'the enormous selling job that can be built around that four-minute demonstration'.

You need too the demeanour of 'a speciality salesman', meaning you have the 'ability to open doors at boardroom level'.

Throw in the "REAL" promotion roadmap and I'm faxing my application over right away.

One key point worth noting though, is price tag. Wrapped up in a goad; 'enough ambition to chase and capture that £5,000 plus'...?

I looked it up. Average house prices at that time were around £8,000. So in today's money, five-eighths of the average house price equates to selling a product of around £185k.

Other measures are available, but this might be instructive. One of my first lessons in enterprise sales was about buyer attitudes to price. Advice was to be careful around amounts that came in at a similar level to their monthly mortgage repayments. Ironically, the more beyond this, the less the resistance, as it was trickier for them to envisage a personal parallel.

When you consider that - as proponents of network theory attest - you need other people to buy one to use yours, then can you imagine an exec back then thinking something like, 'two of these little gizmos costs the same as my home...'? Probably not the comparison you want.

Whatever the veracity of such cod-psychology, the fax of the early 70s was pricey.

As an aside, I feel compelled to relay that the very first fax machine I used in an office was bought as one of a pair. A computer vendor whose second-in-command had taken one, and gave the other to their biggest customer as a 'gift'. With number to send orders to pre-loaded as shortcode '1'.

Given all this, I was struck how similar this half-century old job ad remains to those uploaded now.

Everyone wants to style themselves as a disruptor. Only being Next-Gen is tolerable. With a new toy the world clamours for. Where only the best can come aboard. Disclosing true remuneration would be vulgar, right. Be prepared to work hard and smart. Ours is, afterall, a fast-paced environment. Without losing sight of the challenging financials involved. Not forgetting the track record, including C-Suite success, which basically says - and this is my biggest bugbear of 2020s' recruiters - you'll have done this job before, but somewhere else, but now jobhop to us as culturally, we're simply 'better'.

A perhaps disturbing reality thud, is that it took another fifteen years for the fax to truly take off in the UK. And this was thanks not to any grinding slow-burn spreading of technological acceptance meeting a declining price point. But rather, a protracted large scale postal worker strike of 1988.

If only saleswomen were sought back then take-up might have trod a quicker path, hey?

Anyway, If you're selling what you consider to be a new product, there's a cautionary tale here in the time lag between introduction and widescale adoption. And if you're recruiting for anyone to sell your fresh breakthrough, then as a checking exercise, why not sub in your words and numbers for theirs and feel how that sounds.

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