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.

Improper Racial Comments From Your Manager…It Can Happen!

Boss Man

You are dependent on this individual for you income, and the stability of you family.  This position doles out the training, and even access to some key prospects.  How should you react when this individual makes an “off-color” comment. How measured should your reaction be? Should you ignore it? Should you lash out? You won’t be the first in this situation, or the last!

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Insensitivity and racism exists, and it is not institutional as it is an individual’s personal problem in most cases.  This insensitivity coupled with a lack of respect for racial differences can be vexing.  When it is not handled correctly, it manifests itself as organizations being called racist, when it is actually a particular (or more than one) manager who is the problem.

No one can predict the source or the timing of these types of comments, we just know that as long as you are interacting, there is a possibility that an improper remark will happen.

These are Not Mistakes!

Everyone comes from a different station in life, and their ability to relate to others is hindered by a lack of understanding others and their sensitivity.  Sometimes, it comes across as being insensitive, sometimes rude, and in other instances, it can rank as downright boorish. The fact of the matter is that many, but not all of these statements represent unadulterated displays of racial prejudice.  Be smart enough to know the difference, as they deserve different courses of action.  Be smart, not oversensitive.

I honestly encountered this during my early years of employment, and quickly learned, as will you, who the source of these types of comments would be.  These types of comment are not mistakes.  They are utterances of ones viewpoints, and in many cases a window into one’s upbringing.  I explain this in Black Sales Journal 12/30/2010, Preference, Perceptions, and Prejudice and Your Employer.

I had an opportunity to cover an issue like this in Black Sales Journal 6/27, Changing Racial Perceptions.   This is one you should check out.   I write about it under the sub-heading “Perceptions – An Example from My Past”.   Frankly, as a young sales professional I did not know what to do.  I was left speechless, and that was the last time.

I don’t care if it is 2011, these comments do still happen.  No one cares about hearing an apology from someone for making the statement when the problem is that someone actually feels this way, and they are your superiors at your place of employement.

Measured Reactions When it comes from “the Top”

When a manager or a senior executive makes a comment that is offensive the other managers and employees who are listening immediately sense the impact of the statement.  Many get uncomfortable, and some want to exit.  Remember this in the examples of actions that I suggest, it is the moment of truth, but the group is your ally.  Groups (the audience to your comment) have a way of being very uncomfortable when someone is singled out, and unjustly aggrieved.

When the comment is made, the audience and you are affected:

  • Something wrong has been said
  • Someone has been wronged or hurt (You)
  • There are witnesses to this wrong, and they are victims as well

It is at this point that your actions are most visible, and most observed.  You cannot avoid the spotlight, and your face will quickly show something is a problem.

Here is what you need to remember:

  • Don’t be afraid to show that you are disturbed if you are. You do not have to be stoical.
  • Show your maturity by not reacting improperly as you are a professional.
  • Exiting the conversation speaks volumes, even more than the suggestion of exiting the conversation when it is a peer. Leaving shows your feelings about the comment, and the commenter.
  • Match the gravity of the comment to any verbal response you might have, yet I will guarantee you that if the comment has any gravity at all, an “excuse me” will result in a future discussion, or even an apology in the very near future.

Realistically, any apology may be more for having said the comment rather than feeling those things that compelled them to make it.  An apology or admission that the comment was inappropriate will show that this comment should not have been uttered.

These Remarks Are About Power

When you hear a remark that is improper and inappropriate from a manager it is usually results in feeling vulnerable, at least at that moment.  Factually, you should not accept it even if alcohol is involved.  I mention alcohol, as that is a common excuse. The ”he had too much to drink” bit is not kosher, and any manager’s drinking issue is not your problem.

Trust me, no manager wants to have a discussion with his/her manager or human resources about remarks they make involving race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation to a employee.  What is even more problematic is if they have to have that conversation because there was more than one incident.  Most employers, especially large ones have no tolerance for that discussion, especially after the first time.

The Role of Human Resources

I have had the pleasure of working with some very good HR professionals.  As a manager I recognize their focus on the well being of the employee and their willingness to take a manager to task when it is truly necessary.

If you feel aggrieved by a comment, you definitely should approach HR and frankly tell the story.  This is definitely a situation where “the truth will set you free”.  Advise what was said including the audience, and how that made you feel.  Be factual and not emotional.

There are a couple of things that can happen when you talk to HR:

  • The manager might be told to have a conversation with you, perhaps including an apology
  • The manager can receive a memo of either admonishment or reprimand.
  • There is a possibility of the manager being placed in ‘sensitivity or diversity training’.
  • If this is a repeat incident, there could be more harsh punishment meted out including termination.

Intelligently realize that you should only involve HR if you really feel aggrieved and they will help you sort it out, as this is not a trivial matter.  Don’t be thin skinned or you will lose credibility.

It goes without saying that you need to avoid jokes about any of those forbidden topics, and stay “clean” yourself.  Recognize that peers and managers should show you respect, and you should do the same.

Your comments are appreciated.  Write me at Michael.Parker@blacksalesjournal.com.