A great salesperson, the late Stan Schwartz of Rosco, once said, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” Some of the most innovative inventions failed because there was nobody to sell them!
This week, we lost a giant in the sales and marketing industry, Tom Pincu.
The early years of lighting sales and marketing
Tom Pincu started in the lighting business in the mid-’50s while studying as a grad student at UCLA. He ended up working at Century Lighting (now Strand/Philips) for Louis Earhart, a man who became his mentor. Under the tutelage of Earhart, he learned the science of lighting and the art of sales.
Pincu was well suited to this work. He had a mind for math and science. After a brief stint in the Army, he returned to Century but soon moved to Colortran, where he became their Western Marketing Manager. It was here that he learned the art of product management.
Over the course of his career, he was an independent sales rep for Strand, Colortran, and eventually ETC.
As a salesman, Pincu was a fierce competitor. His greatest desire was to “crush the competition.” He loved a face-to-face shoot-out, and he used data, science, and sometimes theatrics, to convince the customer. He was an ambassador, a spy, and a showman.
When Fred Foster took his first lighting console, the Mega Cue, to USITT seeking a buyer, Tom Pincu was one of the guys he approached. Colortran eventually bought the Mega Cue and distributed it as their own product. You can hear Pincu describe that initial meeting in the video below. The two became friends, and Fred always considered Pincu a mentor, someone who had the gift of experience. About 13 years after that initial meeting, Pincu became the ETC sales rep in Los Angeles. He and his partner Bill Moodie grew sales rapidly and established ETC as a leader in their territory.
My life in sales and marketing
Sales is a profession practically vilified; successes are rarely celebrated outside a small circle. I had studied design and set out on the “noble path.” Designers are celebrated! There are no Tonys or Emmys for sales. On completing grad school, I found myself in a sales career within two years. Truthfully, I was horrified. In the end – sales powers business, and over the past 26 years, I’ve accepted my inadvertent career choice.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1994 to open a sales office for ETC. Tom Pincu was initially suspicious of me, fearing that ETC would push him and Bill out, but eventually took me on as a mentee. He taught me the science of light and how to sell. He taught me tactics, defiance, logic and science, and a bit of theatrics. Over the years, I have often reflected on how fortunate I have been to have Pincu as a mentor.
As we lose these older mentors in our lives, we must ask if we are now doing for others as they did for us. Pincu’s death reminds me to be sure and stop to listen, offer insights, teach skills, and help people grow.
The following is an interview I did with Tom, filmed in 2010.
-by David Lincecum