Posts belonging to Category Business Practices

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

When You Feel Screwed: 3 Steps to Get Help!

Difficult Times

If you are like many of us, there will be a time in your career that things will go wrong.  You will feel aggrieved that it does not appear that you get equal or fair treatment, including important resources like preferred territories, distribution of prized or house accounts, or even issues regarding salary increases or promotions as compared to your peers.


This problem can be vexing in the sales workplace.  You might feel embarrassed, emasculated, and even paralyzed, yet need to have answers.  Your job is important to you and your family, so you must take care to do this correctly.  It is also difficult because you feel powerless to affect outcomes when you believe management is working against you.

Yes, you feel your options are limited as you are working hard to insure that you keep your job, yet your results don’t always put you in a position of strength.  Frankly, I have been there.

What Are Your Options?

There are some things you can do; yet you need to do them correctly.  I am going to give you an example:

Problem -Distribution of orphaned accounts and prospects to favored sales representatives.

As a sales professional you know how refreshing it is to get customers and prospects that you do not have to prospect for.  Customers who get the introduction to you as their new representative  feel instant credibility based on the organization that you work for and will give you a chance to consummate the relationship by your actions.  That credibility can be very important to a Black sales professional.   I also talk about “the spoils of sales” and how the distribution of business and prospects can help, or hinder.  I made references to situations like this in Black Sales Journal December Post of Preference, Perceptions, Prejudice and Your Employer.  Feel free to take another look at it.

When you are seeing these accounts distributed to other sales executives who have less experience, less product or service knowledge, and less tenure than you have, it can be disheartening.  This happened to me years ago when I was a sales representative.  You may feel powerless, but you should not feel voiceless.

I was pretty good at selling commercial insurance products to medium and large businesses in the Chicago metropolitan area many years ago.  I was also proud of the organization that I worked for 5 years (eventually I retired from virtually the same organization with 32 years).  You can imagine what I felt like when in the midst of various situations where there were several distributions of prospects and accounts and I received literally nothing.

What I did was simple.  If faced with the problem, you should do it as well:

STEP # 1 – Research your sales record and your effort and be brutally honest

Be honest with yourself about your record, which will buttress you case, as well as the situation.  Did you handle a previous situation like this poorly?  Take an honest account.

  • Seek Counsel - Find someone (a sales colleague or another sales professional) who is objective that you can seek honest counsel with and really listen to his or her response.
  • Review Your Activities - Take positive account regarding what you have received in terms of “call-ins”, and other business, and any other failures.
  • Take account - Know what you have done with this type of business, and be prepared to show the facts.
  • Know Your Total Performance -Note your total performance, activity and production, and be ready to account for why it should have come to you.
  • Be Ready to Prove Up! - Note that speculation and conjecture do not count, it is “not what you know, but what you can prove”!

STEP #2 – Have a frank but professional discussion with the sales manager or principal.

I went to my manager and advised of my concerns.  I was one of two Black sales professionals in a staff of over thirty-five.  I talked clearly, and unemotionally, and stated my concerns.  We reached agreement that I did deserve more.  The facts should speak for themselves, yet you still may not reach an agreement.

You may find that it is still an issue.  I met with the manager again four months later, yet felt the need to hedge my actions and set up a meeting with Human Resources as well.  In my discussion with my manager, I had to make the inevitable statement that I was still bothered and that my concerns were being ignored.

Here is the part where you have to put your self “out there”.  Do not be afraid of the conflict generated from it.  Conflict can be healthy if done correctly.  If you believe in the situation, and your right to be there,  it is what you have to do!

This meeting might seem fruitless to some, yet it is the meeting that gives you the opportunity to say that you may need to look for some satisfaction or discussion elsewhere.  The manager should not be surprised at that point when HR calls to get his rendition of the facts.

STEP #3 – Make Your Case with the Human Resource Manager

Let’s be clear here, you need a party that can be fair and is also interested.  I am not telling you that the HR manager or generalist is an ally, but I am telling you that this individual has a tendency to be fair, and has knowledge about how the company will handle such a concern.

The reason that you had the conversation with the manager first is because that would be the first request of HR, or anyone else called in to help.  It just makes sense.

For HR you want to do the following:

  • Define the problem.
  • Summarize the conversations with the manager
  • Be clear about the disparate treatment or inequities, and be ready to prove up.
  • Open yourself up to asking for help.  That help might be having a discussion with the manager, getting clarifications, or even having discussion with the manager’s manager.

What you should not do is:

  • Lose emotional control
  • Play the “race card”
  • Talk about confrontation

In Summary

Whether it is distribution of favors, salary, or other issues regarding equitable treatment, Human Resources is not the end-all, yet they can be objective and provide perspective to both parties regarding equitable treatment. If you believe that it is because of racial discrimination you should be prepared to enunciate it clearly and succinctly with as much evidence as possible.

Always note that your previous record with HR, and your current sales record are all in play in this discussion.  But…if you are being treated unfairly, you should find comfort in discussing it without a focus on race as the possibilities of discrimination, if any is obvious, will be on the mind of a good HR manager or generalist anyway.

This is a sensitive subject with a heavy impact on the lives of sales professionals.

I look forward to your comments. You can reach me at