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Does Your Sales Division Reflect Our Diverse World

20 Dec, 2005 By: Nicki Weiss imageSource

Does Your Sales Division Reflect Our Diverse World

I've been active in sales
training for the last 15 years, and I am continually struck by one unchanging
situation: office technology sales forces do not reflect the ethnicity of the
working world.

I am an American living in Toronto—the most culturally diverse city on the
planet—and I recently became a dual U.S./Canadian citizen. On the day I took the
Canadian oath, 113 people from 22 countries took the citizenship along with me.

I was surrounded by a sea of interesting looking faces of various colors and
hues, and I was so proud to be part of this crowd. Every time I ride the subway,
I see the same variety of ethnicities as I did that day at the citizenship
ceremony. This reflects the world we live in.

However, in my years of working with thousands of sales professionals from a
wide variety of industries, including office technology, pharmaceuticals,
telecommunications, healthcare, etc., I can only recall a handful of people from
my training classes having been African American, Asian, Hispanic, Middle
Eastern, and so on. Why?

lack of diversity makes no business sense. Every day, companies struggle to
develop a competitive edge and increase customer base. We are all operating in a
global marketplace made up of a vast range of cultures, customers and customs.

Most companies declare in their corporate statements that it’s their people that
make the difference, yet they haven't found practical ways to ensure that their
sales forces reflect the marketplace realities of diverse races and cultures
that they are serving.

Some have started recognizing the benefits of diversity, such as Bill Minix,
director of learning and development for Fisher HealthCare.

In a recent article in Selling Power magazine, he pointed out: "The more diverse
your environment, the better your sales. If you get 10 medical technicians
together for brainstorming, each with 18 years of experience, what kind of ideas
do you think you'll get?

“But if you introduce a junior military officer with a background in leadership,
someone who sold copiers on a commission-only basis, and someone who emigrated
from another culture who had to learn how to do business in a new language, you
might get new ideas on how to drive, motivate, and persuade your customers," he

Bridging the Gap

How can office technology managers encourage, recruit and nourish culturally
diverse salespeople? Here are some ideas:

1. Declare your intention to have your sales team be more reflective of the

When hiring for office technology sales positions, start paying close attention
to company policies that encourage or mandate a diverse environment. Tell
others, including your sales team, of your intentions and ask if they know good
people to hire.

Perhaps members of minority groups are not applying for sales jobs in your
industry, or are not being promoted into sales management. Remember, the same
was said about women 25 years ago. Although there are still few saleswomen in
the office technology business, many sales forces in other industries now
include significant numbers of women. Change can happen.

2. You should question your own viewpoints.

Ask yourself some questions: What are your assumptions about races and cultures,
or about the prospect of working with people who may look at the world and human
interactions through different lenses? When you hire or promote someone from a
minority group, do you feel as if you've done that person a favor? Unconscious
attitudes can unwittingly lead to exclusionary actions.

3. Be a mentor matchmaker.

Research indicates that employees of minority cultures in an organization may
have more difficulty finding mentors than employees of the prevailing culture.
Find out if an employee would prefer to be partnered with someone of the same
background, and then offer to connect that person with an appropriate resource
within your organization.

These are just a few things to think about when taking a closer look at the make
up of your company. Does it reflect the society you live in?

Nicki Weiss is a professional sales management coach, trainer, and workshop
leader, specializing in the office technology industry. Sign up for her free
monthly e-zine, at www.saleswise.ca . You can email her at nicki@saleswise.ca or
call 416.778.4145.

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