Articles from December 2010

Preference, Perceptions, Prejudice and your Employer

Professional sales remains an interesting occupation. The  management structure and the environment is built with many features thought to recognize the positive activities of generating sales and getting the most from a business relationship.

On the other hand, sales is the most measured of professions. As a result, publication of that measurement is sometimes the substitute for positive reinforcement, as well as the fuel for performance criticism. All of this makes it more difficult to determine the effects of preference and prejudice when they exist.

The ‘Spoils’ of Sales

Preference and prejudice can limit your share of some valuable resources. Examples of those resources in the sales world are some of the following items:

  • The ‘handing out’ of house accounts
  • Distribution of “call in” business
  • Distribution of accounts/customers from terminated salespeople
  • Apportionment of goals/expectations
  • Salary increases
  • Promotions
  • Valued additional training

These resources can be important as they can generate additional results. They also seem to increase the stature and importance of the individual who receives them. Access to the best prospects and customers given from the manager is subjective, and left to the manager’s discretion. This is the point when The 3Ps come into play. It is not just whether you get some of the resources, it is the quality of the resources that you get.

Your manager is an individual, and thus could be subject to The 3Ps. You need to recognize that this person (potentially) hired you and has retained you, so you’ve made it past the first hurdle, that of perceptions. You are generating a vision as a sales professional, and you must make sure that it’s a good one.

I once had a sales manager who, based on my skin color, “rewarded” me with the  call-in prospects that he supposed were Black. His supposition was based on their business address, or the fact that their voice sounded Black. He might have thought this to be fair, but certainly I did not. We set down and talked it out. We did find agreement that I should have entrée to all of the universe of prospects regardless of race. It worked after that, yet during this time, many major prospects were given to others.

Suggestions For Getting Your Share of the Resources

Here are some suggestions to deal with potential preference and prejudice regarding the distribution of these resources:

  • Use the performance system wisely– Use the annual and  mid-term appraisal meetings as a planned forum to your advantage in discussing your access to resources and your successes. Don’t leave without voicing your concerns and knowing your managers concerns as well. Cover items of fairness in the distribution of resources as well as any disparate treatment. Make sure it is all reduced to writing confirming what has been said.
  • Know your standing in the organization- Know your results versus others (overall and versus goal). Use the wealth of sales information about results (and others sales producers) in your favor. Know company’s top producer’s numbers as well as that of producers with a like tenure to yours.
  • Know your “conversion” rate– When it comes to call-in business, house accounts, and accounts from terminated producers, know how many of these you convert to real customers, and the dollars involved. Keep a log on all prospects given to you, their origin (call-in, house accounts, etc.), and results. Be the expert on you and your own performance!
  • Be specific–Specificity increases credibility. Save any and all information which substantiates problems on these accounts, including buyer complaints, compliments, and testimonials. Remember it is not what you know, but what you can prove!
  • Lobby for training and development- With knowledge of your successes and your numbers, ask for what you need. In a sales organization, it is often that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Remember management does change. Memorialize all conversations and agreements. It is good business.

In Summary

Once again, remember that you work for an individual in the business organization. The individual manager may come with life experiences the results in having preferences, perceptions, and prejudices. Some of these things can be “managed” with forethought and perparation. Many of the above bullets allow you to be proactive and move to shape the conversations. Above all you must make sure your activity numbers are good; it is at the base of what you are trying to accomplish. Results (sales) numbers will hopefully follow.

If your numbers are solid, you have a right to expect some of the ‘spoils’ that can be given out by the manager. It may take some work effort, but do the groundwork so that you can wage a good solid argument for this review deserves. Always be prepared to prove your claims and concerns!

We look forward to any comments you might have.

Preference, Prejudice, Perceptions and Your Customer

Boss Man

In “7 Success Essentials For the Black Sales Professional” (12/16) we discussed the effect of the 3P’s (preference, prejudice, and  perceptions) on your customer. The customer makes the buying choices without the effects of a statute, legislation, or public sentiment.  You can access this article in “Recent Posts” in the side column.

The 3Ps can weigh heavily on your customer relationship. In this post we will take a moment to look at how to deal  with the all-important customer angle. The customer is affected by the 3Ps, but note, you may be able to affect the outcome.

Customer Preference– I Would Like to Work With “Bob”3Ps!

Your customer prefers to be “comfortable”. The highest level of comfort involves working with someone they already know. The problem is that someone that they know might not be able to do what you can do! The “hook” for you might be your fine company, your exceptional product, or it might be you, the professional. If they can get it  from a friend, or someone they know, they will prefer to do it that way.  Overall, know why they are talking to you.  Is your product exclusive?  Is it sought after?  Is your service over and above the others?  Be honest with yourself.

Buyers have a preference because of inertia, a desire not to move or change who they are currently working with. Your job is to create awareness, a push, and an impetus for movement. You do this by creating your own advantage:

  • Product expertise–if your product or suite of products is better than anyone else, you have a definite advantage
  • Industry expertise–if your industry knowledge is stronger than others, you can gain consideration as an industry expert. You will be able to leverage this in your sales process
  • Vision–if you are a visionary, and thus able to come up with solutions over and above other sales professionals that can save the customer money, increase the buyer’s profit, and provide ease of doing business, you are at a definite advantage

Only a stubborn buyer/customer  avoids doing what is in the best interest of their organization, but they are out there.  They will know you have the best solution and it will give you an edge in the next selling cycle. There is no solace in losing an opportunity, but we are talking about reality.

Your Customers Perception of the Black Sales Professional

You might be the first Black sales professional who has called on this particular buyer.  You might be the first Black professional from a particular industry or product. You are working against the buyer’s perceptions:

  • Does this individual know what he/ she is talking about?
  • I’ve never seen a black person selling this product!
  • Will this person be here tomorrow, Are they in it for the long haul?

Here are some proven solutions:

  • Be a specialist–industry or product. Specialist  are perceived to have knowledge and staying power.
  • Be a true professional–know and follow the sales process
  • Be credible – bring references–provide credibility from other buyers.

If You Suspect Your Prospect is Racially Prejudiced

If your customer/buyer gives you signals that can only be interpreted as being prejudiced, as opposed to having a preference, you have some decisions to make. Above all, you should follow through with the sales process as a  professional. Prejudice is insidious and success in changing it is far from assured, it is actually doubtful!  It is not the fact that someone is prejudiced, it is how they use this prejudice in their decision making.  I can only suggest that you pick your prospects wisely as you can waste serious time attempting to “reform” a buyer/customer. Frankly, it is not worth it. You are not a social worker, you are a sales professional. I would suggest trading that prospect and getting a prospect that might bear fruit even if it is not as large or potentially lucrative. Cut your losses and move on!

Please tell me what you think, your comments on important.

In the next post  (12/30), we will look at the employer, the 3P’s, and the black sales professional.  Don’t miss it!