When I was operating a seed sales territory, I managed more than 120 dealers, along with 42 District Sales Managers and 5 Regional Sales Managers.
This was no small task.
In order to keep up with all of the activity, while ensuring that I was providing the support my Team needed, I relied on clear, precise communications. With that number of people reporting to me, I needed to communicate a lot, every day.
The U.S. Postal Service and the Telephone Company were my primary, in fact, my only means of communication outside of face-to-face contact.
Since I traveled almost constantly, I had to make sure that most of my schedule was planned out in advance of leaving my home or office.
Planting seasons and harvest seasons were especially challenging times of the year. It was very hard to find growers because often they were spread out across the countryside, working in fields far from their home base.
This meant that if I didn’t have an appointment prior to my arrival in the territory, I had to make face-to-face contact with someone who knew where my prospect or customer would be.
Since this was the age before cell phones, text messages and social media, once I was in the territory my primary communication tool was the pay telephone—usually located in a booth on a street corner.
Using one of those, now prehistoric tools, required preplanning in the form of making sure I carried the correct change to make the call.
Phone booths became something I relied on very heavily for getting appointments at the last minute or reconfirming prior commitments.
Additionally, the phone books found in each of one of those booths was, at that time, an extremely priceless source of information.
Just think about how many phone booths used to be across the country and how much money phone companies brought in to give people the luxury to conveniently talk to each other.
I’m sure that, to phone companies, it seemed like the way people would communicate forever.
It is funny to think that their next biggest innovation became drive-up phone booths, where a phone call could be made through the window of a car. Little did the hard-wired telephone industry know at the time, they would quickly become obsolete and absorbed by the future because every street corner was soon to be stripped of its phone booth and replaced with wireless technology.
The advent of the cellular phone did it—it killed the hardline telephone business, whether it be on a street corner or in the home, virtually everyone went wireless.
The cellular phone was first adapted to the automobile, then to “on the person,” individual use.
It changed everything.
Not only did it put many phone companies out of business, but it changed society’s attitude.
When people had only two ways to communicate—the telephone and face-to-face contact—they were much more conscientious about keeping appointments and making commitments to each other. They knew how hard it was to change a commitment, once one was made.
As a result, when they made an appointment, they kept it. If they told someone they were going to be in a certain field at a certain time, they kept their promise. But today, with so many different ways of communicating, people have become sloppy, if not rude, about keeping commitments.
They know now, that if they change their mind after an appointment is set, a phone call can reroute the person who is looking for them. While that may not seem so bad, prospects and customers have begun hiding behind all forms of communication because they tend to be bombarded with people who want to communicate at all times of the night and day.
So as obsolete as the phone booth has become, we are also seeing virtually every other form of communication since, becoming obsolete too.
After all, if you can’t contact someone with absolute certainty of reaching them whenever you need or want to talk with them, that form of communication is no longer dependable and effectively obsolete.
I guess perhaps the only form of communication that will never become obsolete is the antiquated tool called face-to-face contact.
You know, it’s that original form of communication put into place upon the creation of man.
It’s been time-tested and proven to work, that is unless the other party becomes really really good at hiding.