As SMEI celebrates it’s 78th anniversary, we reflect on the rich legacy of the worldwide professional association for sales and marketing. We’ve come a long way since the late 1880s, when sales and marketing was not popularly considered to be an attractive career or a profession. Many in the business, seeing the need for professional recognition based on sound standards and ethical practices, created Sales Managers’ Clubs. First started in the 1880s in North America, they gradually spread throughout Europe, Australian, South American and the Pacific Rim.

From them emerged SMEI. In 1935, IBM Founder Thomas Watson Sr.; Raymond Bill, founder of

SMEI's 78th Birthday Cake

SMEI’s 78th Birthday Cake

Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, and other visionaries invited the presidents of many Sales Managers’ Clubs to New York City to discuss forming a network of sales and marketing executives. The result was the National Federation of Sales Executives, the first of several names for SMEI.

This month, SMEI celebrated 78 years on stage with a special “birthday cake” in front of a packed house at the Sales 2.0 Sales Management Performance Conference held in San Francisco.  “I joined SMEI when I arrived in the US from Austria,” said Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power.  “I have enjoyed the resources that SMEI provides for many years,” he continued.

When I first joined SMEI as a member in the mid-1990’s it was easy to count the countries where SMEI has a presence.  Today, it is easier to count the countries where SMEI is not represented, signifying the reality of SMEI’s strategic vision to bring professional certification and membership to developed and developing countries around the world.

The success of SMEI is due to thousands of hours of volunteer leadership from committees, affiliates and the international community of sales and marketing professionals.  But ask any leader and they will tell you one year of volunteer effort goes by very fast, and 78 isn’t a long time when you’re talking about establishing an enduring legacy.