Posts belonging to Category Racial Discrimination



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.

The Raw Truth About Your Business Relationships!

TrustMany years ago I had a meeting with a buyer to discuss adding another line of business to his account.  I felt that I could save him money, and I felt I could make some money for my company and me as well.  He was always an easy person to talk to, and I measured my relationship with him at to be at the highest level.  As his need for the product was high, this might just be a matter of timing.  He was accepting proposals from three vendors in total.

I went to him, presented a ‘death grip’ (a proposal that had price and product that could not be denied) and his response was, “I am going to stay where I am on this one.  You price is good, and I like your organization, but maybe next time.

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Almost every business relationship has a limit, and it is usually because of the trust factor.  When the requisite level of trust is absent, the resulting trust deficit might be based on the sales professional, and in many cases, it will be based on the company that sales professional represents. Either way it ‘stops’ the sales process in a way that does not result in any revenue changing hands.

In the case above, the buyer did not have enough confidence in either me, or my organization, to let money change hands.  Getting the order means getting over this “hump”.  Obviously this was a learning situation for me.

The Trust Deficit

“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

Zig Ziglar

No one wants to think that they are not trusted, but usually this is not personal …this is business!  You have not necessarily done any wrong, but you may still have work to do getting rid of the trust deficit

This obstacle is seldom meant to beckon that you aren’t trustworthy, it is meant to show the relationship is not as solid and intimate as you thought.  You can overcome this lack of trust, and should not take it personally.

Are You At a Disadvantage?

Black sales professionals should assume they are at a disadvantage until it is proven otherwise.   Let me explain that.  Being at a disadvantage means that you have work to do.  Assume you do not have all of the trust necessary to close the deal, but the good part is that you are in the game.

Trust is an essential factor to consummate a business relationship, and the raw truth is that when you are Black or another minority, you need to work continuously to make sure that trust is present as you may be lacking one of the most important aspects of a positive business relationship, something I call preference.  If you will remember from earlier of issues of Black Sales Journal, specificallyBSJ 12/27/2010 Preference, Prejudice, and Perceptions and Your Customer, and BSJ 12/12/2011 Racial Preference in Actionto name an important few, preference is important.  It is at the top, and the bottom, of any business relationship.

Improper Racial CommentsPreference is ‘socially’ legal. Preference is still different from “racial preference” as you will see if you read the above articles.  Racial preference is vexing, and is everything wrong with business.  Racial preference is racial prejudice!

I will speak more on this important item in a moment.

Building Trust

How do you get the trust you need.  How do you generate the most complete relationship?  Well, I am going to point you in the direction of a couple of in-depth articles on building the trustful relationship between you and the customer:

Sales professional and CustomerBlack Sales Journal 7/11/2011- Deepening Your Customer Relationships – The Holy Grail for the Black Sales Professional

Read this to know how to construct and maintain the strongest relationships.  Remember, relationships are everything.

Black Sales Journal 1/20/2011 – Deepening Your Customer Relationships Part 2

Read this one to gain access to a simple customer profile that you can change as you see necessary, and other tools to help you record and recognize the relationship and its strength.

The Role of Racial Preference

Racial preference is essentially racial prejudice, and there is frankly no other way to state it.  Are you at a disadvantage?  The answer is ‘possibly’.

We need to face the fact that there are many buyers who could care less about your color, and believe in fairness.  Many more believe that they do, but are affected by forces that they don’t even recognize.

That is the nature of racial prejudice.  It is easily hidden from view, and with that in mind I suggest you always assume you are at a disadvantage.

Read about it in the articles I cite, you will recognize it, and learn to make the proper assumptions.

Relationship Building 101

Build a relationship for all of the reasons cited in these posts, and put your energy and resources toward making sure that you cement together a solid, enduring relationship founded in trust.  Deliver on your promises and commitments and you will create the underpinnings of a trusting relationship.

Ask the customer how you are doing…get meaningful feedback from this important relationship.  More in Black Sales Journal 3/12/2012, Ask Your Customer for Feedback.  You will be amazed at how the customer begins to start to develop an affinity for you if you will put yourself on the line like this.

Be the best at what you do, and remember you cannot win without your customer’s trust, and relationships are everything.

Your comments are appreciated.  You can reach me at michael.parker@blacksalesjournal.com.