Posts belonging to Category Job Advice



The Bright Line of Business Ethics: Are You on the Right Side?

Changing Perceptions

Always conduct yourself ethically and conduct yourself as if someone is always watching, because they are!  Separate yourself  from the rest of the professionals.  Always, always do the right thing! Are You on the right side of this bright line?

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A few years ago I received a call from someone selling promotional items.

The call went like this:  “Mr. Parker this is Jim Carr from Midwest Promotional Products (I have changed the name).  When we last spoke, you advised me to call you back this October to discuss our organization providing you with some of your branded items for the upcoming year…”

I will stop here for a moment.  I knew right away that my organization did a great job of providing promotional items, and that was the only source that we used.  The fact is, that the opening line from this sales person was an simple unadulterated lie.

I responded, “Mr. Carr, I don’t remember having talked to you.  I would not have asked you to call me back as we are not in the market for branded material.  We buy from a central source within our organization.” He responded with lie number two, “Maybe it was not you but one of your managers that I talked to that referred me to you.  I just wanted to share with you our line of…”

I quickly dispatched of the call for one simple reason…if this sales ‘professional’ was going to start off this conversation with two lies and misrepresentations, when was the third going to happen?

Sales ethics is lacking overall in many  industries, and you have the ability to make sure that you do your part to make the sale profession ethical and honorable.   If you sell a product or a service, you must recognize the importance of ethics in your ability to not only have longevity in this fine occupation, but also to be successful and prosperous.   In the example above, the rep only needed to say that he wanted to find out my interest in his product.  Sales professionals consistently used that approach with me and got an audience.

The Bright Line of Ethics

Note an important fact: The distinction between ethical and unethical will appear as a ‘bright line’ once you internalize your desire to act ethically in all situations.

This rep did what was akin to attempting to ‘sneak through the back door’.  I would want to start a relationship with someone who would so quickly and comfortably start out with a lie.  This may not seem to be large, but think about it,

Ethics: The principles of conduct governing an individual or group (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The need for ethics in sales is real, and will set you, as sales professional, apart from those who fail to recognize its importance.  Even more, it will allow you to sleep at night.

You will look to be fair, equitable, and transparent when you work with a customer.   Avoid exaggerations and untruths and communicate well, following up with correspondence.

Once you are there, the ‘smell test’ will become part of your quick review.  Once you internalize ethics, you will become sensitized to how everything affects not just the customer, but also all other parties (your employer included).  At that point you recognize that you work for an organization, but also are an advocate for your customer.  The customer has no other voice.  There is no doubt who pays you, but we need to make sure that your customers are treated ethically. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer, and articulate the situation to your organization.  If you were the customer you would want to be working with professionals who you have credibility, trustworthiness, and a desire to do right even when no one is looking.

Ask yourself these important questions:

These questions are simple but the impact is huge.

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 its 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.

Rise Above It All!

As a Black sales professional you should demonstrate sound solid ethics, and be the advocate of the customer in making sure that your organization is fair with the customer.  With a sound ethics ‘compass’ you will be able to ‘feel’ whether what you are doing meets the ethics tests.

This stance and advocacy will help create the strongest of relationships.  Don’t miss the chance to do it.  It is a responsibility that may test you, but will also strengthen you and your relationship.

Be consistently ethical and you will be the best.

Your comments are welcome. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

Race and Your Resume Part II – The Three P’s

We began to delve into this important issue in the post last week, and you can access it below this post.  We took a look at your most important job hunting tool and how you might want to “frame” yourself in your quest for a job.  This post will look at the forces that make a difference during the job search.

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The Ever-present 3Ps (Racial Perceptions, Racial Preferences, and Racial Prejudices) and Your Job Search!

These three influences define the environment for all sales professionals, and even more so for Black sales professionals as it represents the theater that must succeed in before getting gainful employment.

During the job search, everything revolves around your ability to get an interview.  Your job search can be difficult, made so by the large number of candidates that are applying and the fact that the resume reviewers (whether hiring managers or human resource professionals) have to make some quick decisions about who makes it to the next level because of the volume of applicants. In the last post we called the categories the A, B, C, & D (Discard) stacks, which is relevant whether it is paper or electronic applications through and applicant management system.

I call these imposing factors The 3Ps: Racial Perceptions, Racial Preferences, and Racial Prejudices! They make a sales job difficult.  Knowledge of them will serve you well.  Success and the reduction of frustration in your job hunt is dependent on an understanding these.

The 3Ps can have an effect, and sometimes an insidious effect, on the hiring process.  It can happen without the perpetrator even really thinking about it.

A brief definition of the 3Ps is as follows:

Racial Perceptions - are hard to change, and deep rooted.  They can come from many sources.  A person’s life experiences, the media, parents, friends, and the knowledge and ignorance of interaction or lack of interaction all form perceptions.  Perceptions are prevalent in all racial and ethnic groups.  We all have them; it is what we do with them that make all of the difference.

Racial Preferences - These are powerful.  They are not always meant to be deleterious to a particular racial group, yet have that effect when they are applied as the opportunity for fairness and equity can be  missed.  The hiring manager’s desire of whom they want to work with may be directly related to their personal relationship comfort.  Some preference may come from perceptions, and some from prejudice, but the net result is the same:  The sales professional who is capable may not be interviewed because they don’t quickly meet the preference of the selector.  Often it is because of a reluctance to do business with someone who is decidedly different than they are. It is no difference for any professional. Do you have any preferences? I will bet you do!

Racial Prejudice - renders any hiring situation difficult, if not impossible.  Racial prejudice does change the landscape.  You probably won’t change this attitude as you can do with racial perceptions and racial preference, and you may be able to spend your time better elsewhere.  If a buyer is prejudiced, the narrow-mindedness and patent unfairness will reduce, or destroy your chances of having a successful employment relationship, or keep it very short lived.

Back to These Stacks of Resumes as Discussed in Part I

Now, the simple fact is that any one of the 3Ps can change which stack your resume ends up in.  So at the risk of sounding over simplistic when it is to your advantage you should willingly disclose your race.  When you are in doubt, you should give consideration to ‘scrubbing’ your resume of racial indicators.  An employer will very possibly not be checking “LinkedIn” in the first stages, as there are too many candidates.

There are some points that you should note about resumes whether in stacks, or filed electronically in Applicant Management Systems that are important.  You can be the beneficiary in either of the following situations:

  • Many organizations have matured to the point that professional HR representatives do the things necessary to assure that there is diversity in the candidate pool. They are your assets in this situation.
  • Many employers purposely attempt to correct deficiencies in their workforce and sales force diversity with proactive hiring procedures in which they look for qualified minority candidates.

Make your resume the “teaser” that it should be. It will get you past the door, and into the mix. Most larger or more sophisticated organizations have human resource professionals who help to assure fairness.

Consider the next couple of points as a suggestion:

  • Include a tastefully done “head and shoulder” shot in your LinkedIn profile.  No screen shots form your computer, pay a few dollars if you don’t have one already.
  • Be judicious in your inclusion of information, but you may not need to “scrub” your resume.
  • Include positions of leadership for social organizations, but you might consider avoiding any controversial ones.  Include activities that have a leadership or business angle.  All else is just information.

My Personal Opinion

I think that you might already have a good idea that I have confidence in HR professionals.  For the most part they are serious minded about inclusion, diversity, and fairness in the process.  Often in the hiring process they are the “neck that turns the head” for the manager so the process does work.  They present diverse candidate pools and do their best to “watch” the process.

I believe that many managers have some preferences because they are human.  They constantly need to “true-up” these preferences with requisite fairness. When you exercise preferences and don’t balance it with fairness, you discriminate.  Exercising Racial Preference is discrimination.  Fairness and equity is what managment should be striving for.

As managers we have to avoid thinking of stereotypical sales professionals and sales personalities.  We need to be open to interviewing candidates of all races and backgrounds.  In the end, the decision on a candidate in good organizations is a decision process that includes HR, a hiring manager, and at the very least, that hiring manager’s manager.

Let me know what you think write me at Michael.parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.