Posts belonging to Category Job Advice



The Most Amazing Sales Professional Ever!

Sales Professional and Manager

Amazingly enough, it is still not too late to be the first! Being the first is an important role in American society.  It is equally important in business.

I am going to use cite one iconic American company, IBM, as an example. As a matter of fact, it is more than symbolic, because this organization took a leadership role.  This is a brief study in how an organization handled diversity. Think about the pressures of selling even before the Civil Rights act of 1963!

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Let’s revisit a true sales pioneer and trailblazer, Thomas J. Laster. His ability to deal with racial preference, racial discrimination, and acts of racial prejudice are legendary.  We cannot avoid giving kudos to International Business Machines (IBM) in their effort to promote diversity.

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A Leader in More Ways than One

In 1946 International Business Machines, also known as IBM, hired its first black sales representative. It was an individual named Tom (T.J.) Laster. This was well before the Civil Rights Act of 1963.  This act was also well before the Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball.  This was not a beauty products company, or someone selling durable goods products to the Black community, this was a business products company that was on the technical leading edge, and selling their product to basic ‘white’ America’s businesses.

The audience that Laster was something to was decidedly in the majority. If we think we see racial prejudice and racial preference, we need to recognize that we see nothing like this gentleman was faced with during his tenure as a sales professional.  A couple of years later, Laster joined the 100% Club, an honor for reaching his sales quota.  This was affirmation to many that this individual was a qualified and accomplished sales professional.

The 40s, 50s, and 60s were decidedly difficult time to even dream of being “the first” in B2B sales, but someone had to do it.  Soon after Laster, IBM hired their first Black marketing representative (Lionel Fultz) in 1951, their first Black engineer in 1952 (Harry Cochraine), and their first Black engineering manager, (Calvin Waite) in 1956.  Lionel Fultz also was named branch manager in 1964.

This made IBM a leader in both business machines as well as employment diversity.  It also made Tom Laster a pioneer in the sales diversity situation.  He was willing, and obviously began destroying the racial perceptions that Blacks, or Negros as we were referred to in that time, could not handle the technical nature and business relationship issues related to B2B sales to a white business populace.  I would believe that partially as a result, many others Black professionals followed through the doors that were opened.

There was no greater a threshold in business sales as this one!  This was certainly important.  Although you probably won’t read books about it there is no doubt as to the impact.

Following this, IBM, assuming the leadership role again, penned and enacted its Equal Opportunity Policy through the Thomas Watson’s (the president of IBM) letter to his organization termed as Policy Letter # Four.  This September 21, 1953 letter directed his managers to “…hire people regardless of race, color, or creed.”  We wish it was as easy this declaration, but this was a start.

This is Significant, But Why is it Important?

I hope you see the significance in the story of Laster. He is truly a pioneer, and really knows what it feels like to be the first.  What is equally important is that you still can be the first Black sales professional in many organizations.

By the same token, you still can be that individual the changes everyone’s ideas about the abilities and work ethic of black professionals.  It would be nice not to worry about that, but it is significant.

I was not the first Black sale professional in the organization that I came up in. I was actually the third. I was the first Black sales manager, and the first Black vice president, senior vice president, and executive vice president.  I had some interesting experiences, which I try to share in this ‘journal’, but I am certain that many of these assertions would have paled in comparison to the stories that Laster could tell.

Be the Best

There are many small and medium sized organizations that have avoided, for whatever reason, employment diversity.  They could have avoided it because of their small size, or because they purposely have not hired Black sales professionals.  They may have other Blacks and minorities working for the company.  It does not matter what the reason might be, embrace that opportunity to work for and to change those organizations.  Show your stuff!

Your only requirement is to do be best that you can be at what you do.  By being the best, you increase your opportunities for success, as well as destroy ridiculous and erroneous racial perceptions.  Your success will be rewarded with a high compensation rate, but also in the pride you have in being the first!

Be the Best!  Your comments are appreciated. Contact me at Michael.Parker@Blacksalesjournal.com.

Resolved: I Will Be in the Top 20% in 2018! Gotta Change Something!

2018 is here!  If you are like many sales professionals, you may need to change something…right now! Save your job and preserve your income! Focus high, or not at all! Here are some ways how you can be in the 20%! So many have used this compilation to change their status.

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If you are in sales you have most likely heard about the following phrase:

“80% of your production comes from 20% of your sales force”

You may also have heard this phrase:

“20% of your sales activities will generate 80% of your sales results”

I am quite sure that you have heard both of these.  More importantly you should figure out a way to make both of statements work for you.

Before we start examining that, we would like to recognize Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) of Italy who started this all in 1906.  He used it initially to explain the fact that 80% of the wealth of his country was in the hands of 20% of the population, also known as the rich.  This is called Pareto’s Principle and you may also hear of it as the ’80-20 Rule’.  It is used in everything from sales, to sports, to personal relationships, and of course wealth.

I have found this principal to be correct for the most part and that is why I’d like to take some time to examine it. Stated simply, a small number of are responsible for a large percentage of the effect.  Most examples use a figure of 20 to 80 or 20:80.

It is exact?  Of course not, but it simple and easy to understand that the relationship between what we put in, and what we get out, is not balanced.

Be the Best!

Successful Black sales professionals stand out.  If you are able to perform at a level that makes you a valuable asset to your employer, you are to be commended, as the ‘environmental’ resistance (general economics, racial preference, and racial prejudice) that you encounter is omnipresent.

Being successful is not enough as your objective is to be the best, and that designation does not recognize race.  To be the best, you need to be in the top 20%.  If you are making money that is fine as well, but overall you still need to be in the top 20%.

Strategies to make it there are important.  Remember, whether you are struggling, or currently successful, if you want to change the result, you must change your behavior!

Here are a few activities that will help vault you to the top:

Read them and select one or two (or several) and give them a try.

Increase your Effectiveness

The second phrase at the beginning of this document illustrates the 80:20 rule of the Pareto Principle by indicating as stated earlier that what we put into something might not be what we eventually get out.  Put primary priority on the items that increase your effectiveness. Recognize that your efforts need to favor those activities that “make a significant difference”.

Author and self-effectiveness guru Steven Covey urges us to “Put first things first”.  Indicating that you should undertake your activities on the basis of importance rather than urgency.

This would mean that you would spend working hours doing some of your important prospecting, and move your expense account (something I was terrible at) preparation to the evening.  It would mean that you would spend valuable time doing customer problem solving first, relationship building next, then the various and sundry activities that are urgent, but not important.

Below I’ve listed some good suggestions with links to past BSJ posts that will make a difference in moving into or staying in the 20%.

There is a lot of information here, yet the most important part of the process is to recognize the importance of changing something.  If you want to change the results, you must change your behavior.  Remember, ‘you can lie about the numbers, but the numbers don’t lie.’

For 2018 change something! Be the best, and always be effective! You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.