Why Aren’t There More Blacks in Sales?

outside looking in

Sales Representative Job Description– Individual needed to convince others to do something that they otherwise would not do! Job Duties - To make this happen, you need to be able to create interest, develop relationships, clarify the product/service and its uses, close the deal, and service the customer.  Not capable of being done by a machine or robot.


Why Aren’t There More Blacks in the Sales Profession?

As a Black sales professional, or an aspirant one, you may have wondered the answer to this question.  As the question is intriguing, I attempted to research it on the basis of items written and published.  There is not much discussion in print. The only citation evident appears to have been a doctoral work done in the late ‘70s.  As that is somewhat stale I will pose some observations on this issue for 2011. In a profession that is “rubber meets the road” for most organizations involved in manufacturing and distributing durable goods, providing financial services, and others looking to put their products/services in the hands of business to B2B end users, a simple observance would tell you that Blacks are underrepresented. There are many reasons.

I will outline some major ones:

Many organizations don’t seek out Black Sales Professionals to hire There are organizations that do recognize the benefit of the Black sales professional and actively hire and recruit.  More organizations need formal recruitment programs.  In some cases it is just racial discrimination.  As I advise below (Difficult Assignments) don’t fall into the trap of being “dedicated” to reaching the Black B2B market, unless your product is primarily used there.  You need every opportunity to succeed.

Lack of Confidence – Based on the fact that most buyers are white, the Black sales professional often has many concerns regarding acceptance.  This can be a serious barrier.  Mentoring, training, and general support can help here.

Difficult Assignments – Often when a Black sales professional is hired, they are more likely to get a difficult assignment.  Sometimes that assignment is related to an area or territory which has languished, or a company trying to reach Black businesses.   Black sales professionals should be very clear about the territory that they are entering and what is expected upon hire and deployment.  Give yourself a fair chance.

Lack of mentoring - It is well observed that we need more mentors, and there are many programs out there attempting to provide more mentoring.  We need to increase this activity to fill the void, as it is obvious that there are deficiencies in this regard.  Organizations need to provide more mentoring, yet mentoring from outside the organization can be effective as well.

Lack of Training and Support - Organizations who hire should attempt to provide the proper training and support. As they have made the first move, now they need to give the Black sales professional the opportunity to succeed.  Black Sales professionals should request details about training, and ongoing support prior to accepting a position.

Retention of Black Sales Professionals is Difficult – Much of this is based on what is above.  A solid Black sales professional has many talents, and if thwarted by the points shown above, they will move to other sales positions, and possibly to other occupations.  Having them move out of sales positions keeps the numbers anemic.

The Professional Sales Outlook 2012 – 2018

The importance of this issue is based on the fact that as many occupations languish, professional sales is projected to grow through 2018. Let’s quickly look at the number of sales positions available.   The source of this information is the United States Department of Labor. This link will take you to the actual report.  This report projects through 2018. A quick look at the sales profession in this jobs report will show the following information:

Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Mfg 1,973,000

Sales Whsl and Mfg (Excl Tech and Sci)     1,540,000

Sales Whsl and Mfg (Tech and Sci)               433,000

The jobs pay well in the overall also:

  • Wage estimates ex tech/sci– Median $51,920, with the 75th percentile showing $74,310 in the overall.  This is wage, and does not include commissions or bonuses.
  • Wage estimates tech/sci – Median $71,300 with the 75th percentile showing $100,910 overall.  This is wage, and does not include commissions or bonuses.

Total sales employment for 2018 is projected to rise to 2,116,400 by 2018 for a 7% projected increase. All of the numbers shown are from the May 2009 DOL Report. Almost all sales positions have some arrangement regarding bonus or commission, although some sales positions are commission only.

In Summary

In Summary In a country that has a reduced focus on manufacturing products, the occupation of sales has increased  in importance.  This importance comes from selling US manufactured goods as well as goods manufactured outside the US to businesses in our country.  This is basically the essence of distribution. You will note that the positive effects of mentoring are mentioned in the major areas above.

You can access Black Sales Journal 1/27, Do You Need A Mentor, Actually You Probably Need Two! Also, as we talk about  finding that new sales job in Black Sales Journal 1/24, 5 Suggested Internet Sites For Finding That New Sales Job. If you are an accomplished sales professional, consider mentoring an upcoming Black Sales professional.  It is the type of giving back that we really need. Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome.  Contact me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

Want to Be an Entrepreneur? 6 Points of Focus for These True Sales Professionals!


I spend a lot of print space talking to sales professionals who ‘carry the bag’ from the standpoint of B2B and B2P for someone else’s firm, both large and small. Some of the best sales professionals are entrepreneurs! They have to “kill to eat”, and do not have the “safety blanket” that many of you have. This is a good discussion.


Today we will talk about entrepreneurs and their selling activities.  What have they found important and successful?  This is a tough frontier in this type of economy, yet anyone that is a business owner is truly a sales professional.  The techniques are similar, and the focus is the same.  The importance of success is the same, yet the entrepreneur is not worried about a performance review/appraisal other than the one a customer delivers.

There are things that you worry about in a large or organization that a business owner is not concerned about.  Covering one’s rear end is not an activity that the business owner needs to undertake, but knowing one’s statistics in terms of sales, activity, proposals, business traffic, etc. is important in the analysis of operations.

Here are sales tactics that entrepreneurs should undertake that increase effectiveness, and also increase the viability of their business effort.

6 Areas to Focus On

Know Your Plan – Know Your Numbers – Believe in them!

Being in charge does not reduce your responsibility to develop a plan.  It is your compass as you veer from right to left looking for the next opportunity.  It is your scorecard as you proceed through time.

Sales professionals who work for small and large firms are subject to structure and accountability that forces them to do it, whether they think they need it or not.  The business owner approaches this task for the “structure” that is needed to hold him or herself accountable.  That is especially true when it comes to prospecting and finding new customers.  The ‘science’ in this is no different than the numbers logic that we have suggested before for our sales professionals. Knowing the numbers and your prospecting formula could get you ahead, or result in you going hungry.

This plan should include how many calls, presentations, and sales you expect to make, and then you will need to work your plan.

Know Your Elevator Speech and Know How to Use It

This is essential as you must be able to quickly get someone’s interest without sending him or her into an eye rolling glaze.  (read Black Sales Journal 8/11/2011, Know You Elevator Pitch) This is a big deal! What good is getting someone’s attention in a corner during the networking event if you are not going state what makes you different and better?  This is your big chance to garner as many real prospects as possible, don’t miss it by stumbling when you should be delivering the line that gets you the appointment.  Know your elevator speech!

Network, Network, Network

This is the path to success for entrepreneurs and other sales professionals once you master the skills necessary to take advantage (Black Sales Journal 2/21/2011- Networking for the Black Sales Professional) of it.  Networking is both a skill and an activity, and you should be proficient at both of them.  No one can use networking to their benefit more than the local business owner.

Whether it is a trade association, chamber meetings, trade shows, or general networking events, you need to capture important data (business cards, dates, and most importantly customer need information) from all of those people that you speak to.

Deliver your elevator speech, captivate them, and ask them what is their biggest need in package delivery, widget supply, or florist services, then solve their issues.

Know your Customer’s Needs and Wants – Listen!

Uncovering your customer’s needs and wants is part of everyday life as an entrepreneur.  The reason that you are delivering the “elevator speech” with such brevity and aplomb is that you need use the rest of the time to find out how you and your organization can help to provide solutions.

You can’t do this while you are talking, you can only do this while you carefully coax the needs out of them.  The real difference is that you are doing this in an environment that is generally “speed dating”.  It can be done gracefully with a few queries such as: “What generally is your biggest challenge in your package delivery?  What problems have you had?”  Or maybe something like this: “How is your relationship with your insurance agent?  Does he or she recognize the changes that are happening as a result of the new regulations?”

All of these are open probes, as you don’t want someone simply saying “yes or no”.  Spend some time listening and it will pay dividends.

Do not move to suggest solutions at this point, as you want to remember what the prize is.  You will see that below.

Keep Your Eye On the Prize – An Appointment

Remember the prize in this case is an appointment.  Your objective is to get to the customer’s office in a controlled environment. If you get there, you received the first victory, then you have to perform.  We are talking about bite-sized pieces here.  You are seeking an appointment at the customer’s location.

With this in mind, do not attempt to close the sale until you know what they really need and value.  The close you want is an appointment date!

Remember You Sell Solutions not Widgets

You are selling solutions to help solve problems.  If there are no problems they do not need you.  Uncover the problems, develop solutions, and then sell.  You will benefit from having provided the solutions when you elect to ‘naturally close’ (Black Sales Journal 9/26/2011, The Natural Close)

Remember, there is nothing like being prepared.  As an entrepreneur, things don’t always fall in line with the ease you want, but you can be in control of this activity with some preparation.

Networking is not always the total answer, yet it is a good start for any business owner.  Get good at it, and …Always be prepared.

Your comments are welcome. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.