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Salesman with Ofrex.


As usual, I had no idea what I was doing or what I had applied for. The good thing was, my ignorance helped in selling this stuff! Because I had no experience, no preconceived ideas & needed help to get myself organised, this was a brilliant start. I didn’t know it was one the most difficult jobs in sales. I just had the ability to sell myself to my new manager, I was probably the best of a bad bunch and I got the job!

The company of Ofrex was completely sales orientated. You went on a course and the training continued every Monday afternoon. To start off with it was a reasonable base wage and the incentive to sell, was the commission you received once the goods had been delivered.

Ofrex sold carbon paper typewriter ribbons & stapling machines to the offices of England. Carbon paper was the standard way to get copies of anything in those days. (27) There were many variations that depended on use (Typing, handwriting & sizes of paper). All typewriters needed a ink ribbon to pass in front of the key of the typewriter & the paper it was typing on. I was coming into selling this stuff while there was still a demand, although the world of copying machines was fast approaching, personal computers were totally unknown. There was a world of typists out there, so there was demand. What I didn’t realise was, the demand was well satisfied and they needed their day interrupted by a salesman, pushing them stuff they had cupboards full of, was like they needed to pull their eye lashes out, one at a time!

First rule of being a sales manager, convince the sales force that yours is the best & people just need to know this. That’s easier with young and keen sales trainees. You feed them the words about USPs (unique selling points) and promotions. With luck they do as you have convinced them! Salesman’s first rule? Justify yourself to your sales manager. Before you get the job, they don’t tell you that you live off your nerves, heart & stomach. No matter how good or bad you are, you have to able to understand that no matter what else happens, you’ll be expected to do more next week, month or year. Salesmen are ruled first by targets. Turnover is always the top main target. Other targets were the number of new accounts, incentives to sell the stuff they need to shift and number of promotions for that cycle/month/quarter. Then there was the humiliation of comparing salesman’s performance against each other. I guess no matter how sales may change, this will always be the same.

Ofrex was always changing sales staff. You were allotted an area on a map. The better you got, the smaller your area ended up. You were set a target of 19 calls a day, if you got three or four orders out of that, you were lucky. It was, in the end, soul destroying. You got rejection after rejection. An excellent product that lasted a long time cost too much money and was hardly in real demand. Office supplies were available everywhere, it was good stuff at a reasonable price.

One part of my area was the Isle of Man, I travelled across every six weeks, and my first call was very good. I had no idea how good this was. At the sales meeting, I was picked out as being excellent sales material. What they didn’t say was, I was filling a hole that the guy before me had left, because it hasn’t been covered for ages. Every trip back became harder & harder. I was too efficient or too good or there wasn’t anywhere else to go, as the world of business began to change. All this is hindsight; I was too dumb to understand what was happening.  I could see that the “kill rate” (the number of calls you made against the under of orders you got) was going to do exactly that, kill me! I was good enough for Ofrex. I was smart, reliable, called on my accounts & tried to do what I was employed to do. I was so persistent that a customer complained I wouldn’t take no for an answer. My area manager said that was a compliment as that’s what he needed me to do.

We started to enjoy holidays in caravans in the West Country. Blue Anchor, Porlock hill & loads of traffic! Building dams on the sea shore, loving cream teas. The lads found a way of driving us mad ... they discovered, that in early caravans the toilets had to be walked to. Oh Joy, how exciting, lets ask again! Happy days! As a family we loved the caravans. Especially when we could eventually afford the posh static ones with proper toilets & bathrooms!

I knew I would like selling. It suited my style; I was self-motivated, free to try doing it my way (well only if it produced the results). I was going to become the last of the “travellers”. You had a car supplied (a white Vauxhall Viva at Ofrex) and all reasonable expenses. The word for this job is now a “Rep”. In the days of old, before World War Two, when it was trilby hats, cigarette allowances and commercial hotels, they was called a "traveller". He was the man, who represented the company, travelled with his bag of samples & looked after selected accounts that were honoured with exclusive rights to sell their product. The world began to change, there were no more shortages after the war, there were hundreds of businesses starting to trade more successfully and they needed “sales representatives”. There were businesses everywhere. They needed finding & opening. My era of being a rep, was calling on all outlets with my samples & persuading them to use me instead of all the others available. Product was easily available. You needed resilience and an ability to convince people that you were their best option. Rule one, sell yourself first.

I then met an American who said, with absolute conviction, “You need to sell sincerity! Once you can fake that, you have it made!”

Next, Toys!



(27)  “Carbon PaperThe old method of getting a copy of any document.