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.

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