Posts belonging to Category Racial Discrimination

Improper Racial Comments From Your Customers? It Does Happen!

It doesn’t matter what color or nationality you are, invariably it will happen no matter what minority group you represent.  With all of the good customers in the world, there are some who just have no filter on what they should say.  We could recognize their ignorance, but more importantly you should know how to deal with these situations.  Always be prepared!


Customers come from all walks of life, and certainly have their goods and bads, but we cannot live without them in the sales world.  They are human, and with that in mind, are capable of saying things that are subject to translation, and sometimes downright wrong and insulting.

This post covers how you might react to those comments, or better yet, how you might better react to those comments.  Remember, just as we stated in Black Sales Journal August 22,2011, Reacting to Improper Racial Comments from Co-workers and Black Sales Journal 8/29/2011, Reacting to Improper Racial Comments from Managers, which covered how you might react to statements from co-workers and from your manager, you have the right to react, I am just suggesting to you do so in a professional manner.

Just because someone is doing business with you does not mean that they can say things that are demeaning or even cruel without a formidable response.

Intent Does Count!

Before we get deep into this, I would like to point out that intent does count.  I would like to explain that there are intentionally harmful racial comments that are made with malice, and racial comments that are made in ignorance.  Although neither of these should be considered acceptable, and they both probably warrant a reply, the requisite responses might need to differ.

Statements that are made because one is ignorant or one is unenlightened obviously have the same effect, yet have less gravity than a statement meant to harm by some one who is rude and insensitive.  Here are a couple of examples:

Statement A: During a business meeting your customer talked about safety in the area that his business is located. He says with a smile… “They say that one of your brothers pulled off the robbery of that fast food joint down the street last night.”

Statement B: During a dinner entertainment session, your buyer indicates she needs to terminate a Hispanic employee “who is still wet from the swim across because of the new immigration laws.”

Both statements are offensive, and both deserve a response.  Which statement is, in your view, is the most racially charged?  How would you react to each of these?

Always be calculated in your response and consider the intent.  I will discuss how I would respond in a moment.  First I want to acquaint you with a personal situation and how I handled it.

A Personal Example

When I was in sales, many of my customers were owners of trucking companies.  This industry, like many others has people that say what is on their mind, and sometimes what is on their mind can be disparaging.  In the instance that I am about to cite, I definitely responded incorrectly the first time, by not responding.  When the second time came around, I think I definitely handled it in the correct manner.

I was on a call basically to deliver policies to the account and we got involved in a conversation about a driver who had generated a lower back workers compensation claim.  Everyone knows that lower back claims can be subjective, and tend to linger for long periods.

During the call my customer indicated that we should investigate the claim of Ben T.  He stated that he had reason to believe that Ben was malingering, and it was our job to get to the root of it and make sure that the claim was compensable, and that payments should be stopped until we knew for sure.  He then said, “You have a good work ethic, and I wish all of your people had that same work ethic.”

I was a 26 year old sales professional and initially, my response was to say nothing other than that I would check it out.  I thought I needed the client, and needed my money.  I realized within minutes that my response was wrong. It kept me up at night for a little bit, and relived it several times.

When I returned to the customer location the following week, I explained to him the situation behind the back claim.  This individual was going to undergo surgery and his claim was legitimate to our people.  I then sat with him, looked him in the eye and said, “Respectfully Bob, I take offense to your comments last week about Ben T. and work ethic.” He developed a puzzled look and quickly said, “I did not mean to offend you Michael.” I then advised the following, “I know you did not mean to offend me, as we speak openly, yet you offended a whole community of people, of which I am one.  It would have been the same as if I said that you are special, but most of your people are drunkards (Bob was Irish). It was frankly just wrong.”

A light bulb went on in Bob’s head.  I could see it happen… enlightenment, that is.  Bob said, “Point taken, but we Irish like to drink!”  I quickly responded, “You do get my point, don’t you?”  We smiled and wecompleted the meeting.

Back to Our Questions

Well, both situations are enough to of these statements are bothersome, and unfortunately situations like this happen in the workplace frequently.

Regarding Statement A: This is the least charged, as this person is attempting to refer to a felon as a ‘brother’ presumably because we often call Black people ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.  It should not have been said but you would not have to use a nuclear bomb on this one.  Your response should be simple and professional, “Respectfully, no one who would do that is a brother of mine.”  Remember, this is a customer.

Regarding Statement B: This is a racially charged statement.  You might hesitate to respond to it, yet the races are interchangeable in this case.  If you do not respond, I suppose you would be waiting until this customer got around to taking a ‘shot’ at African Americans  next.  An improper remark against any group or religion is an attack on your diversity.  Your response should be professional and impactful.  Something like, “Kristin, honestly I take offense to that statement.”  She knows it was wrong and if she is worth her salt she will not make another one like it.

Respect your principals.  I am not saying that you should not work with a customer as much as you need to be true to yourself.

Always be true to yourself.  Always be the professional.

Your comments are appreciated.  Read me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.

Truth Vs. Lie – What Lie are You Going to Tell Today?

Tell the Truth

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

There something about telling the truth!  It can disarm, humble, or even impress a buyer. The truth builds relationship, even contentious ones.  There is also something else about telling the truth that is even more important: Its the right thing to do and its easy to remember!


You have seen in previous posts my comments about telling the truth in the sales process.  It is without fail that when a sales professional gets immersed in small lies, they graduate to being able to tell the larger ones with aplomb, and without much hesitation.

I will clarify what I mean, and I am almost certain you will know someone who engages in the practices that we are talking about.  The truth has a strange way getting in the way for some sales professionals.  Being honest about the fit of your product and the customer’s needs is an essential part of the process.  If you are caught in a lie in the sales process, your chances of a good relationship are diminished.

What Kind of Lies?

There are several different types of lies that are common in the sales process.  I would suppose that it would be simple to say this a prohibition against lies should apply only to the “big ones.”  To be truthful, that is not correct.  Sprinkling your encounters with customers with lies cannot result in any great advantage worth losing your credibility over.

We spoke in Black Sales Journal 3/31 Credibility – The Goal of the Black Sales Professional,regarding this issue, which is so important.  It cannot be denied that credibility is the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” for the Black sales professional.  You cannot manufacture it, you must earn it, and it can be fleeting if you are not careful.

Lies of Convenience

I am sure that we all believe that there are small imperceptible lies to customers that don’t matter.  They are small, and meant to be “convenient” type lies.  This is convenient for whom? I think you get it.  The small lie, which is told to the customer, is for the convenience of someone else.  It may be that you cannot get delivery until next month, even though the product is needed next week.  Missing this sale would be better than losing the confidence of customer.

If you are lying for convenience, rethink it.  That small lie for convenience can break any confidence and trust you have if you get exposed.  Think of your relationship with the customer based on the “life value” of the customer.  The total amount of business that you can get from this particular buyer, whether he/she stays at this current organization or not, is what should be considered, this year, the following year, and the years after.  The total of this is the life value.  To guess at it, multiply the value of the average sale (in dollars) times the average amount of transaction or sales that will occur in the life of that relationship.  Sometimes, you might find yourself surprised by the size of that number.

The confidence that you maintain with the buyer will go well past the fact that you don’t deliver in a particular instance.  Tell the truth and you will be recognized for delivering “when you say you will.”

Lies in the Middle

Obviously, these are not necessarily big, but they do happen. Yes, there are sales professionals who would tell something other than the truth about their product or service to get the commission or bonus. The problem comes when the performance is not there, and someone loses confidence in you and your product or service.  Knowing the features and benefits of your product or service, is what you do.  You can easily substitute, or contrast a different feature when you know your product/service is not the leader in particular area.  When you say things about your product/service, or your organization that are misrepresentations, it may be sales talk, but it is still a lie in the eyes of a customer.

Lies to avoid embarrassment or cover for mistakes are lies told which could be avoided.

Lies for Profit – The Big Ones

If you know someone who is telling lies to consummate the sale, and thus pocket commissions or bonuses, then they are involved in the “big one.”  I only say this because if they can twist the truth for the self of self-aggrandizement, I suppose that they have decided that this is a job, and not a career.  It will catch up with them at some point.  Obviously, no suggestion in a journal like this will change their mind.

I will say a couple of things about the process of lying in sales.  In a profession where relationships change everything, a lie can change the landscape.

A Case for the Truth

The energy expended on the lie, and the “maintenance of the lie” is consuming.  Additionally, the truth is easy to remember. No need to expound on this issue.  So it is noble to tell the truth, and may expose you to some chagrin, yet we all make mistakes, forget, and have errors in judgment.

Resort to the truth and you will find that the best customer is the one that appreciates you because you are an honest professional.  Sales professionals who tell the truth don’t always get the business, yet they secure and grow relationships.

Some sales roles are transactional, but for some of the best compensated it is a relationship game.  Don’t forget it!

We welcome your comments. You can reach me at