Work for Free? Sad but True!

BSJ - Working for Free

Sounds like a dumb advertisement doesn’t it?  Anyone who believes that a sales professional should work for free has a touch of a fever, but the actual situation plays out everyday.

Yet in reality, many sales professionals, and especially Black sales professionals find themselves in that situation, unintended of course.

It happens when you invest time and effort in making presentations to buyers who based on reasons beyond your control, take your presentation’s price, and your constructive ideas, and give them to your competition.  When that happens, they are actually saying you should work for free!

How It Happens

This can happen to anyone, any color, and any creed.  It is what happens when someone makes a decision to be courted and accepts the benefits of a relationship, yet not get married.  The problem arises when the fruit of your labor is used to better the position of the customer, even though they had no intention of making the move to you or your organization.

You come in with a ‘killer’ price, and a product offering that is exceptional.  You realize that based on the customer’s needs your organization can use a combination of products that are currently available on the market and couple it with some creative financing to make it palatable.   In the whole, your price and product offering is enhanced by your terms (financing, payment deferral, and other benefits) and you feel success is in the making.

As you know the customer can benefit financially and product-wise from the activities of the sales professional without ever making a real commitment to you, and certainly without putting any food on your table.  You may have felt this ‘sting’ several times before, and you do not have to be a ‘repeat’ victim.

You do all of the work, and the customer gets the benefit and any reward goes to the sales professional who followed your lead.  You have to ‘wait until next time or next year’.  Can’t buy much bacon with that! Objectively, this is part of the sales process, and a part of the process that you cannot avoid; yet you can manage.

Take Smart Precautions

To avoid this being your anthem, you have to develop your principles and rules and stick to them.  You also must work on gaining commitment before showing your complete arsenal of products and services during the process.  That commitment is based on the answers to the questions below.

When presenting, seek to get agreement on what you need to solve, and what level of price and program will “land the business”.  Logic would show that you could still be manipulated; yet this starts to get at some of the problem.  You will want to cover these bases:

Ask the all-important questions before the solicitation process.  These are the requisite questions that will define what it will take to separate them from the incumbent:

  • Why are you looking for competitive quotes/bids?
  • How will the quote/bid process be conducted?
  • What pricing difference must be made? What will it take for you to change?
  • How long have you been with the incumbent? Does the incumbent get the last shot?
  • Is the playing field level with the others that are quoting (other than the incumbent)?

The purpose of these questions is clarity about the buying process and what definable difference that you must make.  Knowing the answers, if the buyer is honest, allows you to do what is necessary to be successful, whether with this customer, or another one.

An important point is that you cannot be hesitant to ask these questions.  They are part of what a true sales professional asks, and gets clarification of before the sales process.  What you learn about how the process is defined in the eyes of the customer will speak volumes.

I am sure that you sales veterans out there do this already, yet it bears mention for the new sales professionals

Don’t hesitate, ask!  Yes, the customer can still violate his/her own rules, but does so at the peril of alienating you and other sales professionals.

How Does this Affect The Black Sales Professional?

This affects all sales professionals, and it is part of the sales ‘game’.  It is what happens when customers must get competitive quotations of products and services because they want to check how they stand, or to satisfy a procedure that does the same.

Here is where it gets vexing.  Black sales professionals can easily be subject to working ‘without pay’ because of the complexities ofpreference and even prejudice (See Black Sales Journal 5/19 A Deep Dive into Preference, Perceptions, and Prejudice).  If a buyer has no intent on doing business with you as sales professional, or your organization, and is planning on taking your work and giving it to the incumbent, they are wasting your precious time and effort.   Issues regarding preference manifest themselves that way. The buyer strengthens his or her relationship with their current vendor, while at the same time improving their price and terms, thanks to your efforts.  Prolonged activities like this could obviously cost you your job.

In this way, being used is bad for your current employment health.  The above questions, if answered truthfully could save you some time, or at least help tip you off as to who the prospects are and who the ‘suspects’ are.

The Reality

You will always run the possibility of wasting time on good accounts that have no intention of moving their business because of their relationship with the incumbent.  They just want to use you for leverage to make sure they get a good price or program.  You have to make the decision of whether you want to be a willing participant, or should we call it a ‘not-for-profit sales professional’.

You have many choices that include not working with a prospect to contacting every few years to maintain the customer pending a personnel change of buyers.  The most important thing is that to increase your effectiveness, you don’t want to waste your time while you better someone else’s program.

You owe it to yourself, and it will make you more effective.

Always be effective!

Your comments are welcome. You can reach me at

Lack Sales Experience? Here’s What You Do!


During my days as a sales manager I was often asked by fledgling sales professionals as to what they could do to compete with the wealth of sales professionals out there with greater experience and knowledge?  What could they do that could negate that experience and make them the sales professional of choice?

The answer may well be nothing! Nothing negates the advantages that knowledge and experience gives.  It is something that cannot be taken away from the sales professional and there will be a day that you all will be glad about it.

However, there are some actions that you can undertake that will put you in a position to win, and your ‘weaknesses’ will be your strongest assets.

Know Your Assets and Use Them

Know your most plentiful assets and know how to constructively employs them to make the difference in how the client/prospect perceives a sales professional.


Question:  What does a new sales professional have in abundance over the successful sales professional?
Answer: Time

The new sales professional has the ability to spend mountains of time on individual prospects and clients, ultimately impressing them with his or her attention and presence.  Be wise about it; yet note the relationship building aspect of spending face-time and effort impressing the buyer and how this will pay dividends.


Question:  How can you make the client ‘dependent’ on you?
Answer: Make yourself indispensable and memorable.

How can you use your ability to focus on the customer?  Create memorable moments (Black Sales Journal 2/3/2011 – Make Yourself Memorable) by sending personally signed cards and notes that share information about products, industry news, and economic data.  Share outlooks and comment on how that might affect your customer/prospect. Increase the customer’s dependency on you, and a relationship is created.


Question:  Does your customer have a perplexing problem?
Answer:  Do Extensive research

Take on a project of solving a problem that could be a game changer.  I once was acquainted with sales professional that was asked to advise how to insure a totally new energy concept.  He researched, and researched, and once finished presented to the prospect and the prospects two biggest suppliers.  The project never got off of the ground, but the sales professional ended up winning the account for both of the suppliers (he already had the other principal) as a result of his spirited work.


Situation:  You need to find prospects…now!
Answer:  Use your ability to access technology for a full-out prospect blitz.

Find new, untapped prospects using your ability to research online.  Most experienced sales professionals have a wealth of work to do with existing accounts, and they are also about the business of sourcing prospects.  They won’t have nearly the amount of time, and potentially technology background to do this.  I have seen it done often, and it is often difficult for the vets to keep up.

Sound too Simple?

It is simple.  The problem with sales is that cumulative sales and existing clients generate a significant amount of work.  The sales professional who is the beneficiary of that account either does the maintenance work, or delegates it to an assistant or inside sales person.

Sales professionals vary in their ability to delegate, but no matter what, it takes time to do the actual work, or to delegate.  The new, but lean, sales professional can use that time to develop prospects and relationships as well as source them by spending the adequate amount of time finding those that have not been claimed.

Use your intrinsic energy to master the prospect system, find the relationships and then deliver solutions so that you can sell.  Spend valuable time working at relationships as you have the time to do it.  It is still a lot of work, but this is what you can be doing.

Here is the time to put together a good plan regarding which prospects to attack, and what sales assets to exploit.  You have something to offer, and it does not work with every buyer/customer/prospect, but with many it makes a significant difference.

Being effective when you are new is important.  Your sales plan executed well is the true meaning of effectiveness.

Always be effective!

Your comments are appreciated.