Yesterday was interesting--
People in my trade are notoriously difficult to sell to; we poke around at the machinery, ask difficult questions and generally behave as if we could build a better version of the widget ourselves. (Indeed, some of us do; I could point to a half-dozen little companies started when some boffin looked at the available options in disgust and made his own answer to whatever the problem may have been.)
Tradionally, sales weasels (so-called) solved this by either wining/dining and being best pals, or by bypassing the techies and pitching his widgets to management and creative personnel. It worked but tended to inculcate resentment.
These days, woe betide the General Manager or non-technical department head who buys Something Wonderful based on the blinky lights and fast talk: unless it really is wonderful down to the last penny paid and beyond, heads roll. Once bitten (clean off!), thrice shy; they've largely stopped buying on their own.
That leaves the salepeople back sellin' to my lot, cranky, suspicious, technically-conservative geeks and nerds. Meanwhile, sales careers are foundering on the rocks of a down economy, a hugely accelerating rate-of-change in hardware and consumer usage, and ever-greater use of software-defined devices. With that kind of pressure on the genome, something had to give--
"I'm a salesman and I probably won't be able to help going into a little bit of a pitch here, but the application of (non-exclusive) technology X to task Z is making huge improvements in quality and cost, and here's an overview of how and why."
"All our competitors (names a half-dozen) make a good product too, which this box can work as the 'home' end for; it'll talk to all of them."
"Here's a white paper on the New Widget," handing out a multi-page print-out, walls of text and no glossy pictures, "and you might want a brochure, too." (point to stack of traditional shiny ads).
"I'm just up here to introduce our design engineers--" (Who proceed to give an informative talk; sure, there's a stack of sales-contact business cards available, too.)
Yeah. They're starting to figure it out. It sure beats the fast-talking but oblivious salesmen I had to deal with way back when, including the guy who made a high-pressure pitch for a particular technology (unflanged rigid coaxial transmission line for high-power RF) he thought was new and amazing to Us Rubes, while standing in the middle of a room where all the high-power widgetry was interconnected with the stuff! Those days are fading. I don't miss 'em.
(On another front, a general-line supplier I otherwise like has continued their trend of sending personable young women to work their table at such events. I'd like to tell you it's because they're such an unbiased metritocracy; I'd like to, but given the evidence, I suspect it's because they know they're working a crowd 95% male and overwhelmingly geeky.)
5 months ago