For 2015 Goal #1 – Be In The Top 20%

When you get out of survival mode, you have a chance to think about how to be successful as you wade through a sea of obstacles.  You will never be remembered unless you can crack the elite.  You have heard about this (Pareto’s Principle) before but now internalize it and …be in the 20%.


If you are in sales you have most likely heard about the following phrase:

“80% of your production comes from 20% of your sales force”

You may also have heard this phrase:

“20% of your sales activities will generate 80% of your sales results”

I am quite sure that you have heard both of these.  More importantly you should figure out a way to make both of statements work for you.

Before we start examining that, we would like to recognize Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) of Italy who started this all in 1906.  He used it initially to explain the fact that 80% of the wealth of his country was in the hands of 20% of the population, also known as the rich.  This is called Pareto’s Principle and you may also hear of it as the ’80-20 Rule’.  It is used in everything from sales, to sports, to personal relationships, and of course wealth.

I have found this principal to be correct for the most part and that is why I’d like to take some time to examine it. Stated simply, a small number of are responsible for a large percentage of the effect.  Most examples use a figure of 20 to 80 or 20:80.

It is exact?  Of course not, but it simple and easy to understand that the relationship between what we put in, and what we get out, is not balanced.

Be the Best!

Successful Black sales professionals stand out.  If you are able to perform at a level that makes you a valuable asset to your employer, you are to be commended, as the ‘environmental’ resistance (general economics, racial preference, and racial prejudice) that you encounter is omnipresent.

Being successful is not enough as your objective is to be the best, and that designation does not recognize race.  To be the best, you need to be in the top 20%.  If you are making money that is fine as well, but overall you still need to be in the top 20%.

Strategies to make it there are important.  Remember, whether you are struggling, or currently successful, if you want to change the result, you must change your behavior!

Here are a few activities that will help vault you to the top:

Read them and select one or two (or several) and give them a try.

Increase your Effectiveness

The second phrase at the beginning of this document illustrates the 80:20 rule of the Pareto Principle by indicating as stated earlier that what we put into something might not be what we eventually get out.  Put primary priority on the items that increase your effectiveness. Recognize that your efforts need to favor those activities that “make a significant difference”.

Author and self-effectiveness guru Steven Covey urges us to “Put first things first”.  Indicating that you should undertake your activities on the basis of importance rather than urgency.

This would mean that you would spend working hours doing some of your important prospecting, and move your expense account (something I was terrible at) preparation to the evening.  It would mean that you would spend valuable time doing customer problem solving first, relationship building next, then the various and sundry activities that are urgent, but not important.

Below I’ve listed some good suggestions with links to past BSJ posts that will make a difference in moving into or staying in the 20%.

There is a lot of information here, yet the most important part of the process is to recognize the importance of changing something.  If you want to change the results, you must change your behavior.  Remember, ‘you can lie about the numbers, but the numbers don’t lie.’

For 2015 change something! Be the best, and always be effective!

Appraisal 2014 – It’s Not to Early to Prepare!

You know it is going to happen! I think this is an excellent time to prepare for it.  You can bring the most important items to light, and calculate how to frame those performance issues where you were deficient.  There is no subject that you need to be more prepared for.


There is no time that is more important, or as intimidating, as annual performance appraisal time.  You probably don’t think that there’s much to be gained in this process.  If so, I vigorously disagree with you.  It is an important time of the year that evaluates your performance for last year, and sets the tone for the upcoming year.  You can have significance impact in this process and document.  Because it is a lasting document, and impacts everything from your salary to your future employment I urge you to insert yourself into the process early.

The sales profession is fairly objective from the standpoint of meeting goals.  As I said a couple of posts ago, “You can lie about the numbers but the numbers don’t lie.” In the end, the numbers or lack of numbers will define your future, but your best bet is toframe the situation correctly, enunciating what you have done and what you need to strengthen.  Remember, you will have the edge, as you should “be the expert on you!”  You should know your numbers and your situation, and feel comfortable leading the conversation.  Below you will see what actual items you should take into that discussion.

You might remember the discussion that should have happened mid-year, if one did occur.  We outline some strategies for this in Black Sales Journal 7/21/2011, After a Difficult Mid-term Review….  This was a suggestion to take the offensive, and hopefully you seized upon it.  This level of proactivity may be uncomfortable, yet it is well advised if you do the homework.  There is no way to hide from the fact that everyone can see your activity and performance.

No competent sales manager is going to avoid this opportunity to tell you his or her thoughts regarding improvement.  We all can be better.   If you are already ‘on the top rung’, this could be the opportunity to get additional resources that could result help you be even more equipped for success in the future.

Additional resources could be items such as:

  • A sales assistant assigned to you
  • An expanded territory
  • More prospects
  • More house accounts

Preparation for The Session

You know whether there are problems in your performance.  You don’t need to be psychic to know this.  It is not uncommon with being in a sales job that you can be criticized for your prospecting or production numbers.  The key is that you need a plan to get back on track.   You will want to have at a minimum the items below:

  • Be honest with yourself –Honest self-evaluation is the most important activity that you can undertake.
  • Know your weak points – Outline them, detail them, and understand them fully.
  • Know your numbers – The metrics are ultra-important, and your understanding of them is the cornerstone to succeeding.  See Black Sales Journal 2/28 – How Many Prospects do You Really Need? for some help in this area.
  • Craft your solutions – Come up with real ways to repair your performance.  Reduce these to writing and be prepared to present them to the manager.  Help can be found at Black Sales Journal 11/10/2011 2012 is Here! – Solidify Your Sales Plan.
  • Ask to be first – Get it over with, and avoid the anxiety of waiting to be called.  Get it behind you and get to work on the 2012 year.  If you have the above items and are prepared, you should rather be first rather than last.

Prepare Yourself for Criticism

Criticism is natural in sales, but sometimes hard to take.  Sometimes it is pride that makes it difficult, and sometimes it is just stubbornness.  Tough words are hard to take, especially if you think you are not being treated fairly.  I will provide more on fair treatment below.

If you have done the items above correctly, you will probably have selected many of the same items as your manager has selected to present to you.  So here is your opportunity to ask for the meeting, present these items to him, and show your ability to be objective.  If you do it correctly, you hopefully will have already started the activities that you are talking about.

Fair and Equitable Treatment

In any position, sales or otherwise, you run the risk of being treated differently than your peers.  This is called inequitable treatment and it may be happening for a variety of reasons.  The reason could be as simple as the manager not knowing what goals or measure they used for other sales professionals to situation where a manager who purposely differentiates his or her treatment for any number of reasons.  Among these reasons could be such items as racial preference, age or sex discrimination, or even racial prejudice.

Your remedies need to be structured based on what is actually happening.  Be careful with accusations, and remember that even though anything can happen, it is difficult to prove certain claims if you do not document everything that happens.

Remember that your human resource professional might be your most solid resource if you think you are being treated unfairly.  Don’t hesitate to discuss it, and get opinions based on what you believe, but don’t make wild claims and accusations.  Ranting might feel better, yet it will not gain you an audience.  Like the 60’s television show Dragnet suggested, “Stick to the facts”.  I would suggest you reference Black Sales Journal – 3/32011 – When You Feel ‘Screwed’ – 3 Steps to Getting Help for more on this important issue.

In business you don’t have the ability to beckon for Martin Luther King or WEB Du Bois, you need to be able to surface your grievance to someone who is paid to be objective and readily available.  Think it over first, and check your emotions at the door.

There will be more information on this in some upcoming posts.

Remember your all-important objectivity.  I know that is tough, but your self-evaluation as indicated above will give you the edge.

An Important Note

Many managers, for whatever reasons exist, ask you to do the work in constructing the actual performance evaluation.  If you are asked to write your own evaluation and bring it to your manager, then you need to be wise about the level of your self-critique.  Be selective about what you include in such areas of:

  • General performance ratings
  • Areas needing strengthening
  • Skills that need to be acquired
  • Training needs

Make sure that you give yourself some room to work, as there is only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days until this process happens again.   Focus on what can actually be done, and that which helps you the most.

The manager should not be ‘bailed out’ from giving his or her evaluation of your performance, and if you do all the work and evaluate yourself, you may rob yourself of the opportunity to hear how your boss really feels.  Additionally, I am not sure that it would be fair to have a manager essentially say, “I agree with your self-assessment’, then sign it.  They need to do their part in your development by advising you of what they perceived would help you.

Get something out of this process.

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