Where Did the Briefcase Go?

Hartmann Belting Leather Briefcase

My faithful briefcase….retired.

Not long ago I bumped into an Optometrist who worked in an Ophthalmology office I called on many years ago. He told me whenever he hears someone mention my name, the big, brown, leather briefcase I always had slung over my shoulder when I visited their office comes to his mind.

I told him I was grateful he remembered me for something, we had a pleasant conversation and agreed to keep in touch. When we were parting, he asked me, “What happened to that briefcase? I always liked it.”

I replied, “It’s retired.” He chuckled and wished me well.

Here’s the briefcase as it is today. Tucked away safely in a storage room in my basement. I earned a small fortune carrying this briefcase and for that I am grateful. I will always keep it as a reminder of from where I came.

My faithful briefcase....retired.

My faithful briefcase….retired.

Times have changed. Is the simple act of carrying a briefcase a casualty of a bygone era in business? I hope so.

While I look back fondly on my time carrying my briefcase, there are many aspects of doing this I do not miss.

My doctor once told me my posture was beginning to be affected by how I carried my briefcase. It was heavy, I had a lot of important stuff in there I needed to carry around as a surgical products sales representative.

During a sales call, I had to reach into my bag, find the appropriate piece of collateral and resume the discussion. A Sales Manager may have said, “Joel, you should pre-plan your sales call and have all of your collateral needed readily available.” Agreed. Sort of.

My selling style is one more of discovery than manipulation. I agree with the value of pre-call planning, having a business agenda for a call and being prepared to discuss these items.

The key is flexibility because a sales call almost never goes as planned. That’s the fun part of selling, right? Solving the equation.

This is where the briefcase becomes an impediment more than an asset. What if the prospect asks me about something I hadn’t considered in my pre-call planning? Saying I can get back to them is acceptable, but less than ideal.

Also, by following up later, I miss an opportunity to be of service and solve a problem for the prospect that is occupying her mind right now. That’s sales gold.

Enter technology. In 1979, Trevor Horn wrote a song, performed by The Buggles, called, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Perhaps someone will write a song titled, “iPad Killed the Briefcase.”

iPad with a leather cover.

iPad Killed the Briefcase.

Today, I serve Sightpath Medical as the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. We have recently begun using software called, Showpad for our sales and marketing teams to develop and deliver our messages to prospects and clients.

What’s amazing to me is that everything, and I mean everything, we need is available right in this App on the iPad. Our reps have everything they need to address any selling situation they find themselves in at the tips of their fingers.

In addition, they can e-mail collateral right from the device. This saves us money, them time, we get an accurate e-mail address and we get metrics on what happened after the e-mail was sent. What more could you want?

And let’s face it, MOST collateral ends up in the garbage. We don’t like to admit it, but come-on. Especially at tradeshows.

Why on earth would anyone today lug around a big briefcase with a bunch of collateral?Maybe it’s like a purse for some people, sort of a fashion accessory? I guess that’s okay, but one can certainly get by with a streamlined version that’s much more fashionable than my trusty old Hartmann Belting Leather version.

Me? Sorry, Briefcase, I’ll just carry the iPad, thanks.



  1. Jack Fitzsimmons on January 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Well said!! Most of us still have the leather bag in the basement.

  2. Gary Wright on January 26, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Interesting Joel…I find every new company I research leads me to a new device technology…

  3. Jean on January 26, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Is it a coincidence that your iPad case matches your briefcase?!? Hmmmm. I love to read your blog, by the way. Gives me a bit of insight to the man I live with! I learn something new every time.

  4. Patrick Jacques on January 27, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Joel, loved it. Our sales team at Acufocus has been using Showpad as well and I have only carried my notepad and iPad into sales calls and meetings for 2 years now.
    Keep writing my friend.

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