Posts belonging to Category Sales Strategies for Black Sales People

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

Selling a Commodity? The Difference is You!

Your Image

As a sales professional you sell what you are given to sell.  When the company that you are representing is selling a commodity, or something near to a commodity, you have to put forth some extra effort to land the business.

While there are a lot of products out there that “sell themselves”, you may have a product that is as inauspicious as salt.  I am going to talk a little about some ways to get the “edge” in the sales process.


Salt Might be Just Salt, but ‘You’ are Different!

The majority of products do have features that provide benefits that others do not necessarily have.  Commodity products are literally indistinguishable from their peer products.  Know how different your product is, if the customer views your products as “the same” as your competitors, the customer’s perception is the new reality.  Here is some good information that you can use to help

  • The Package – The package is anything you and your company do that gives the product additional or differential value.  Items like delivery time, credit terms, refund policy, and other additions are important.
  • The Professional Edge – You, in partnership with your organization can be the edge.  What makes you the best sales professional out there?  Can you define it? Responsiveness, innovative, intuitive, or are you an expert, product or industry as described in Black Sales Journal’s Your Customer Needs an Expert – December 2010
  • The Pricing – If this variable is equal or close to the other products, it does not detract from the rest of the items.
  • The Perceived Value – The sum of the above three items in the eyes of the customer.  This is how the customer believes that they can benefit from the coupling of your product, packaging, pricing, and the professional that is standing behind those three items.

So the simple equation looks like this:


The Package

This one is simpler than you think.  Keep in mind that since it is under your nose, you might not have studied it much.  Now is the time to take account.

A carpet store knows that most of the carpeting that they are selling comes from the same mills as their competitors are using.  Price is a differentiator, but when it comes to this product, the slight differences in price for buying in volume do not transfer well to the customer.

The answer is the packaging that includes:

  • Same day or next day delivery
  • Sunday Installation
  • Employing your installers (more accountable, more responsible)
  • More favorable credit terms
  • Disposal of your current carpet and pad

None of these things are beyond duplication, yet when some are offered they can make the difference in the sales by appearing more amenable or customer centric.  Think about the advantages that your organization has over your competitors, and focus your sales pitch on them.

The Professional – YOU!

This is the most visible difference out there, if you believe in yourself and give it your all.  Being responsive, giving excellent follow-up before the sale, and being an expert (industry or product) can be solid differentiators.   Know how to use them to your advantage.

It is not enough that you can brag about your experience; can you give references as to you and your company’s work?  Can you drop names of those that have benefited from your ingenuity and judgment?  When you get those compliments, you must file them and be ready to call upon them.

By being the ultimate professional, the Black sales professional can make all of the difference in the world.  Knowing how to smoothly go from appointment to commitment to the close is invaluable.

The Pricing

In a true commodity situation, your price is most likely going to be very nearly the same as your competitors.  Pricing factors should affect all products equally.

When pricing is not equal, it is usually based on a variety of factors. There is no doubt that distribution as well as the actual sales professional has an effect on price, but even more on value and service.

Perceived Value – The Customer’s View

The customer is looking for some difference, and in the absence of something relevant will consider it a commodity product.  This is not good because then there is an inertia that will keep them with their current vendor.

The sales professional has a responsibility to catalog the differences, and find the ones that apply to the buyer.  The buyer’s perception of those differences is the key.  Know your buyers and know your packaging.

In this example you are selling galvanized screws in 20 pound boxes.  Your product is so much of a commodity that your box even looks like your competitor’s products.  You, as a sales executive, cannot change anything on the product, or the box they come in, yet you can intervene to get them better the credit terms, insure delivery by tomorrow, or something else of value based on your knowledge of the customer’s situation.  The concession regarding credit or delivery is a packaging issue, yet the listening to understand that extensions of more credit or rapid delivery were ultra-important comes from being an engaged professional.  The net result is that the customer’s perception will be that your package, you and your company, have more value.

Try the exercise of taking inventory of you and your company’s advantages down to the smallest of differences.  Be exhaustive in your review.  You will note that even when the product is a commodity, there is still something to sell.  Last but not least, remember the real difference maker, you the sales professional!

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