Posts belonging to Category Business Ethics

The Content of Your Character!

The  date that we celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday is upon us.  Dr.  King talked of character, and I discuss a professional’s sales character  in this post.  Character is important, and it is what you will be judged by in your professional career.  It is the basis of a meaningful relationship.


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke eloquently regarding the future saying:

“…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King 8/28/1963

This speech delivered by this iconic individual symbolizes that there will be a day when skin color and race are not used as determinants of a ‘man’, but strength of mind, morality, independence, individuality, and other qualitative factors would be the measure used for judgment.

Obviously we are not there yet, or there would be no need for Black Sales Journal.  Progress has been made no doubt, yet there is still significant work to do.

Black Sales professionals have a lot to offer, and I will quickly define what I will call “sales character” which makes a real difference in professionals.  When you examine you professional character, you are looking at some qualities that make a real difference in any sales professional.

The Attributes

I would describe these characteristics or attributes as those that greatly contribute to the content of one’s sales character:

  • Ethical
  • Mentally Tough
  • Persistent
  • Responsive
  • Innovative
  • Humility

There are probably more that qualify; yet these are high on the list.

Ethical – Solid ethics are important in everything, but extremely important in sales, where trust and honesty have high relative importance.  I went in depth on this subject in Black Sales Journal 12/1/2011- Are You Ethical?

Mentally Tough– Strength and toughness are qualities that make up the sales persona of any true professional.  It is so important in this ‘lonely’ profession that if you don’t have it, you should consider another professiona.  Rejection, most of which is not personal, abounds, and this requires a business stubbornness that is somewhat unique to this profession.  Visit Black Sales Journal 12/29 Mental Toughness – Asset For the Black Sales Professional for a review of this valuable topic.

Persistent – Persistence is a trait that makes the sales professional special.  Prospecting activities that bear no fruit are an obstacle to many.  The persistent sales professional who makes 24 calls knows that the 25th may result in an appointment, and also knows that the 26th may bear fruit as he knows his or her metrics and success ratio with making appointments.  I worked at a place once that had a monetary Persistency Bonus for those who kept pushing and pushing.

Responsive – You are responsive because you have customers and an employer who depend on you.  Customers have needs and expectations and deserve a sales professional who can make them a priority.  The employer counts on the sales professional for more than just sales, as service and territory coverage are important as well.  A great reference would be BSJ 6/16 Responsiveness – The Objective of the Sales Professional.

Innovative – The ability to come up with solutions that work in real time is what innovation gives.  Sales professionals also suggest changes in product and process that benefit the customers.

Humility – This one is tough for many sales professionals whose confidence level and sense of being the integral cog overshadows all else.  Being able to credit an associate or sales team is a must.  It is difficult for many professionals even though it should not be.  An associate who dances on the desk after a significant sale does not get it!  Spend that time crediting your associates and act like you have been in the end-zone before.

Real Life

Real life gives you things that you can’t even make up.  Truth be told, it can also give you characters could be on the silver screen.

I gave this example in Black Sales Journal, in Are you Ethical? The Question for All (12/1/2011).  This section was entitled “Even When No One Is Looking!”

I was once riding in a company vehicle with a sales rep and the customer to a business lunch in the Chicago area.  We were coming to a toll both and the rep reached into a bag and grabs a coin, which he deposited in the automatic toll basket and we were allowed to proceed.  At that time the toll was 25 cents.  On the way back from the successful lunch, he did the same.  As he did it, I looked at the bag, which must have had 200 or more coins and inquired as to how he got that many quarters.  He indicated that they were not quarters, but after a recent trip to Mexico he had a bag of centavos that were essentially worthless here.

Remember, this is in front of the customer.  Our customer heard him admit to using worthless foreign coins in the toll basket.  If you were the customer, how would you feel about this reps credibility?  What would you think about the organization that you were doing business with as you witnessed him doing it in front of his manager?

We had to terminate the rep (I refuse to call him a sales professional).  Let’s look at it from an employer’s view.  This unethical individual did the following:

  • Sullied his image and the organization’s image in front of the customer creating doubt as to our ethics and credibility
  • Engaged in a civil wrong which might have carried criminal penalties as well
  • Committed expense fraud as he also received reimbursement for fraudulent expenses

I contacted the customer as I introduced the new sales rep.  I apologized for the fact that our representative did what he did, and explained that I had someone who was solid who would take care of him.  The customer said the following to me, “I really wondered about what organization would allow an employee to cheat like that.  I liked [him] but realized that I did not know him well enough to trust him.”  The customer was watching my response as much as he was watching the actions of the rep.


I know there are other traits and characteristics, yet these are truly important.  I say we all will be judged by the “content of character” as sales professionals at some point.  Our customer’s and our employer’s notice our character.

Be the best!

Your comments are welcome.  Write me at

Holiday Gift Giving and Entertainment – Do It The Right Way!

BSJ - Business Gifts and Entertainment

The holidays are upon us, and it would  be wise for us to review entertainment and gift giving issues as all sales professionals know, or need to know these points.  Proper etiquette in the matters shown below are important.  As a matter of fact, you can display proper sales manners and move to the top of the list as many sales professionals do not employ them consistently.


Whether in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-personal (B2P), the number of sales professionals that display proper sales etiquette is not where it should be.

Proper sales etiquette comes in many important theaters:

  • Business entertainment and business gifts
  • Prospecting
  • Sales presentations
  • Telephone solicitation and use
  • Other

This post of Black Sales Journal will cover proper sales etiquette in business entertainment and gift giving.  We will cover the other sales etiquette categories in the next month or so.

Entertainment Should be Entertaining!

Business entertainment should have a purpose and be enjoyable, even when the meeting objective is not the most exciting.  Obviously, it gives you time and a way to build relationships, and in sales, relationships are everything.  This area is important as it is ‘your’ moment in the spotlight and as you spend this time focusing on the customer, the last thing you want to do is to strike the wrong cord and turn him or her off.

You may want to take a look at Black Sales Journal 4/4, Business Entertainment – Some Do’s and Don’ts, for some basics on purpose and cautions.    It would serve as a simple refresher to set up many of the points made in this post.

You can be in two different positions with respects to business entertainment, you can be the host, or you can be the guest.  We will touch on these two different levels of status, as they are different.  Regardless of which position that you are in, you are in control of your own actions.

The Host With the Most

As the host you want to be in control of the financial elements and the operation of the meal.  You have to be prepared to exercise control regarding:

  • Selecting the venue to match the occasion
  • Assuming control of the event
  • Setting the financial tone
  • Managing the wine and alcohol
  • “Managing” the conversations to include all parties

Match the venue to the importane of the occasion in terms of cost and atmosphere.  Good ‘business’ restaurants with favorable pricing are essential to sales professionals, and are usually a good venue, but the occasion should dictate.  Gentleman’s clubs and topless bars are a strict no-no, even if the client suggests it.  You are in control, and your ethics, appetites, and professionalism are at stake here.

Assume control by giving simple signals to the wait staff that you are hosting and expect the tab.  This gives immediate control.  The knowledgeable wait staff recognizes that when a guest orders something that will impact you, they will look to you for a ‘veto’. Remember to tip correctly as it is evidence that you are the professional.

Set the financial tone for the event.  Order first to set the tone.  If you order a sandwich, they will most likely all order a sandwich, yet if you order lobster, you will have a monster tab if the others in your party follow suit.  This means you may need to order a substantial meal even if you have a limited appetite to make sure that the group feels comfortable eating (if you are not hungry), yet that is the responsibility of the host.  Also, be discreet with the tab.  The guest(s) does not need to know the amount of the tab.

Manage the wine and alcohol by reviewing the wine list, ordering the selection, and inspecting the purchase.  If you do not drink, you need to delegate that but give some clear directives on cost, and you approve additional purchases.  Know when to cut it off.

Manage the conversation to include all parties.  From your vantage point as the host, be inclusive in your conversations, and get to know all of your guests

As a Guest

As a guest, you have some simple rules that you should follow which will help you.  These rules are simple, and show good manners:

  • Let the host choose the seating
  • Order based on what the host orders
  • Let the host ‘manage’ the alcohol, appetizers, and the deserts
  • Offer to leave the tip
  • Say “thank you” when the host pays the bill

Your objective is to be entertained, and these simple points will get you there without going ‘south’ of what the host is doing.

The Art of Giving

Your company probably has a gift giving policy, and you should refer to it for some basic rules.  While the IRS Publication 463 (2010) covering giftsnotes your employer or your company receives a deduction for gifts, the $25 deduction that is afforded simply means you should always be careful and discreet in your gift giving.

What is more important is that the gift should be matched to the importance of the relationship.  The government prefers that gifts be ‘nominal’ in value, yet we do know that some relationships deserve more than others.  When you decide to give, the memorable way is to give a well-composed note with the gift that explains the purpose of the gift.  There is a good possibility that the note will be around for a while.

A gift that is ‘out of proportion’ with the relationship will be recognized for that peculiarity, and may not have the desired effect that may be honorable.  An engraved pen is a fine gift, and signifies a business relationship.  It is a great gift for an important business relationship.  A gift of golf balls is a sound and affordable gift for golf lovers, and does not break any rules.  Giving elaborate gifts can give the appearance that you are manipulating the relationship.  Giving a putter is good, giving a ‘set of clubs’ does not look as innocent.

Many organizations require their employees to sign disclosures of all gifts over nominal value once a year.  The firm that is auditing the customer usually requires this.  Keeping in mind that many of the buyers that are courted are financial professionals and very much careful with this requirement.


When I was a sales manager I had a a responsibility to determine if gifts were appropriate or inappropriate, as well as question and consider approval of some interesting entertainment.  Returning a gift is an uncomfortable process; you would be wise not to put a customer in that position.   By the same token, finding out that you might be funding some of your business entertainment out of your pocket because you violated expense policy can be quite painful as well.

These areas of etiquette easily learned but also meet the ‘smell’ test.  If it does not feel right, don’t do it.  Knowledge is important, so know your company’s expense policy, and keep it handy.  Expose yourself to your company’s gift giving policies as well, and avoid errors up-front.

Knowledge is everything.

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