As I Reflect
This past week, what should have taken two hours to drive, took almost five. Needless to say, I had a large chunk of time with nothing to do but change stations on the radio and keep from rear-ending the vehicle in front of me. I was on my way back from a three hour meeting/demo with a potential new client. The bad news was the traffic. The good news is that I left with a deposit check.
During my drive time, I replayed the meeting I just left. This led me to think about how our methods of selling our newest inventory control system, Vision, have changed since I started ICS in 1980. Back then, our system was named Control +Plus. But no one really knew that. It was always “Tony’s” system.
The sale cycle started with that first barrage of phone calls between yourself and the new client. Back then, our goal was to bring enough legitimacy to who we were, to be able to at least get in front of the potential new client for a demo.
Should we be lucky enough to get an appointment for a demo, we either had to schedule one at an existing location, with a client that was agreeable to letting a competitor into their store, or we had to load up enough hardware to do a demo on-site. I drove everywhere. As we started to expand our territory, I recall shipping hardware to Chicago to do a full-day demo.
We are not talking a six-pound laptop. The computer itself was over 15 lbs. Plus we had to lug the monitor and keyboard. Three or more trips from your car to carry this stuff into the prospects store, get it all connected and hope that it worked! At a cost of around $10,000.00, this was no cheap date.
During these years of our growth as an industry leader, we had to constantly prove ourselves, fight for every lead and continue to evolve the software. Our potential customers did not have many choices for systems. NCR, IBM both had POS systems. But they did not have inventory control.
Whatever happened, we were meeting face-to-face with our new customer. We were shaking their hand, learning about their business and their family. For many, it was a family business. Our sale process was something “personal”. We got to know our clients. We had a few of our clients, through the years, at our ICS Holiday dinners. We were that close.
We used AlphaCalc to prepare spreadsheets. We used AlphaWord to write proposal letters. Talk about sticks and stones. And for writing code, we used AlphaVue, but we just called it “Vue”. The programming language was AlphaBasic, a cross between Basic and Fortran. There were no databases. No SQL. No Postgres. In fact, I recall one of my employees comment that “we” (ICS) were the Oracle of our time. We had to write all of our own file management tools. Sorting was slow and tedious. File rebuilds were laborious.
Somehow, we trudged through it all. Our client roster grew. Our expertise deepened. Our reputation expanded. Soon, we were selling systems in Los Angeles, Denver, even Cordova, Alaska. And whenever a sales call came in, they were always looking for “Tony’s system”.
It turns out that I was the face of ICS. I was the face of the system that they would use to run their store. I was the face when there was a problem.
Where does this all lead?