Posts belonging to Category Black Entreprenuers



In the Face of Prejudice…Will Your Employer Stand Behind You?

Sales will continue to be a difficult, but rewarding position.  We have had an opportunity to cover issues regarding the Black sales professional, the customer, and the employer, and their interactions in the course of business.  This is a complex relationship.

The effects of the 3Ps often have a role in the relationship.  For a refresher, the 3Ps play into the relationship in varying degrees; sometimes just below the surface, and sometimes playing a much more prominent role.  Today we will cover the reaction of the employer when prejudice rears its ugly head in the customer relationship, and how you might be affected.

The 3Ps Revisited

The 3Ps represent the untold in the workplace, beliefs, attitudes, and practices that can make it more difficult to succeed.  I will draw from the Inaugural Post of Black Sales Journal 11/2010, when they were first discussed.  Specifically, I termed it the “X” factor.

The 3Ps are:

  • Perceptions
  • Preferences
  • Prejudices

Perceptions are hard to change, yet they are based on ones background, mindset, and their seat in the arena of life.

Preferences, quite simply, are what a person leans toward in their relationships, where their comfort level lies.

Prejudices are deep, often fueled by perceptions and one’s past, are deep enough to be actionable and problematic.

We went on to talk about the effect of these on your customer in Black Sales Journal – Preference, Prejudice, Perceptions and Your Customer) .  This post covered how you can work with your customer when one or all of the 3Ps are evident.

The most striking statement in the post was that of the elements of the 3Ps, the most insidious is Prejudice. It is the most problematic of the 3Ps, mainly because there is little that can be done about it. Take a moment to review The Inaugural Post of Black Sales Journal and you will see that when it comes to the customer and the 3Ps, prejudice has little or no solutions.

When Prejudice Rears Its Ugly Head

There is always a possibility that a new sales relationship can go south because of Prejudice and its effects.  When and if things go wrong, you will be faced with being in a ‘sandwich’ between an employer who wants to satisfy a customer, continue to reap revenue, and hopefully, wants to support their sales professional.

Your employer’s reactions will obviously be affected by his or her own 3Ps, and you should expect that will be a factor (Black Sales Journal 12/30/2011 Preference, Perceptions, Prejudice, and Your Employer).  As a matter of fact, Prejudice sometimes is unmasked when customers and prospects are handed out to a Black sales professional.  No one has an idea of how receptive the customer will be to the new relationship unless the customer has made statements or taken actions that reveal it.  I would rather see this distribution of business to the Black sales representative than have the employer avoid giving them the best prospects to others in anticipation of a negative response.

When the customer reacts unfavorably, you will get an education, as you will get an opportunity to see whether your employer stands behind you.

An Real Example

I was a Black sales representative in B2B sales who was assigned an account to service and hopefully sell additional business.  I was more than willing to accept, and take a chance on, any reassigned account, as it was a way to increase sales revenue.  I needed the account badly.

The account was medium in size, and although complicated, well within my capabilities as a sales representative.  After much preparation I made my first visit to the account to make my introduction and discuss a change in pricing on the account.  My sales manager accompanied me on the call as making changing pricing at that time was a touchy issue.

After the introduction it was obvious that the call was not going to be warm and fuzzy.  The customer, who was an older individual, sat motionless with a foul expression even before the increase in price was discussed. Once pricing was discussed, the customer slammed his hand down on the desk “This is bull _ _ _ _ , you are trying to put me out of business!”.  “I will not accept this!  Get the hell out of my office!” he ranted.  We made a feeble attempt to explain the pricing but were told again to “Get out now!”

We gathered our materials and made a hasty retreat.  The buyer followed us through the open office, full of his employees, ranting at us.

On our drive back to the office, my manager and I discussed the call and it was obvious that neither of us expected the reaction, price increases were happening everywhere and ours was modest compared to others.

Upon arriving at the office the Regional Sales Manager (my sales managers boss) called me to discuss.  The customer had called him and advised that he was ticked  and that they were going to move their business if a change was not made.   I told the Regional Sales Manager that I had done everything possible on the pricing.  He said to me “It is not the pricing that he wants to change, he wants you off of the account.  He advised that he was not going to work with you based on your race.”  I knew from the conversation that he was sparing me the actual comments made.

Then came a statement that changed my life.  He indicated that he told the account that if that is the way you feel, “He is our sales representative, and if you work with us, you will work with Michael.  If not, we will, at your suggestion, terminate your account.”  The account ‘fired us’ later that day he indicated that he was moving his business and never would return.

It was a modest loss of business for my company but a huge boost in my confidence.  My company had stood behind me!  Quite frankly, I appreciate what the sales manager did and I will never forget it.  There is no greater endorsement of a professional than to have the support of their employer.

Conclusion

I know that this example is unlike others, yet in backing a business resource, a devoted employee, I tend to think that the employer made out well.

Every situation and every company are different.  When I managed sales professionals, my actions had a sympathy to the sales professional involved as well as the customer.

Lesson learned:  Customers are always important, but the customer is not always right!

We appreciate your responses. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@Blacksalesjournal.com.

Selling a Commodity? The Difference is You!

Your Image

As a sales professional you sell what you are given to sell.  When the company that you are representing is selling a commodity, or something near to a commodity, you have to put forth some extra effort to land the business.

While there are a lot of products out there that “sell themselves”, you may have a product that is as inauspicious as salt.  I am going to talk a little about some ways to get the “edge” in the sales process.

______________

Salt Might be Just Salt, but ‘You’ are Different!

The majority of products do have features that provide benefits that others do not necessarily have.  Commodity products are literally indistinguishable from their peer products.  Know how different your product is, if the customer views your products as “the same” as your competitors, the customer’s perception is the new reality.  Here is some good information that you can use to help

  • The Package – The package is anything you and your company do that gives the product additional or differential value.  Items like delivery time, credit terms, refund policy, and other additions are important.
  • The Professional Edge – You, in partnership with your organization can be the edge.  What makes you the best sales professional out there?  Can you define it? Responsiveness, innovative, intuitive, or are you an expert, product or industry as described in Black Sales Journal’s Your Customer Needs an Expert – December 2010
  • The Pricing – If this variable is equal or close to the other products, it does not detract from the rest of the items.
  • The Perceived Value – The sum of the above three items in the eyes of the customer.  This is how the customer believes that they can benefit from the coupling of your product, packaging, pricing, and the professional that is standing behind those three items.

So the simple equation looks like this:

(PACKAGE + PROFESSIONAL + PRICING] = CUSTOMER’S PERCEIVED VALUE)

The Package

This one is simpler than you think.  Keep in mind that since it is under your nose, you might not have studied it much.  Now is the time to take account.

A carpet store knows that most of the carpeting that they are selling comes from the same mills as their competitors are using.  Price is a differentiator, but when it comes to this product, the slight differences in price for buying in volume do not transfer well to the customer.

The answer is the packaging that includes:

  • Same day or next day delivery
  • Sunday Installation
  • Employing your installers (more accountable, more responsible)
  • More favorable credit terms
  • Disposal of your current carpet and pad

None of these things are beyond duplication, yet when some are offered they can make the difference in the sales by appearing more amenable or customer centric.  Think about the advantages that your organization has over your competitors, and focus your sales pitch on them.

The Professional – YOU!

This is the most visible difference out there, if you believe in yourself and give it your all.  Being responsive, giving excellent follow-up before the sale, and being an expert (industry or product) can be solid differentiators.   Know how to use them to your advantage.

It is not enough that you can brag about your experience; can you give references as to you and your company’s work?  Can you drop names of those that have benefited from your ingenuity and judgment?  When you get those compliments, you must file them and be ready to call upon them.

By being the ultimate professional, the Black sales professional can make all of the difference in the world.  Knowing how to smoothly go from appointment to commitment to the close is invaluable.

The Pricing

In a true commodity situation, your price is most likely going to be very nearly the same as your competitors.  Pricing factors should affect all products equally.

When pricing is not equal, it is usually based on a variety of factors. There is no doubt that distribution as well as the actual sales professional has an effect on price, but even more on value and service.

Perceived Value – The Customer’s View

The customer is looking for some difference, and in the absence of something relevant will consider it a commodity product.  This is not good because then there is an inertia that will keep them with their current vendor.

The sales professional has a responsibility to catalog the differences, and find the ones that apply to the buyer.  The buyer’s perception of those differences is the key.  Know your buyers and know your packaging.

In this example you are selling galvanized screws in 20 pound boxes.  Your product is so much of a commodity that your box even looks like your competitor’s products.  You, as a sales executive, cannot change anything on the product, or the box they come in, yet you can intervene to get them better the credit terms, insure delivery by tomorrow, or something else of value based on your knowledge of the customer’s situation.  The concession regarding credit or delivery is a packaging issue, yet the listening to understand that extensions of more credit or rapid delivery were ultra-important comes from being an engaged professional.  The net result is that the customer’s perception will be that your package, you and your company, have more value.

Try the exercise of taking inventory of you and your company’s advantages down to the smallest of differences.  Be exhaustive in your review.  You will note that even when the product is a commodity, there is still something to sell.  Last but not least, remember the real difference maker, you the sales professional!

Let us know what you think. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.