Joyce Johnson is an Author, Speaker, Sales Champion, and Business Coach, who has worked as a sales leader, business consultant and mentor for over 20 years. Joyce began her career in professional sports and later entered the telecommunications industry leading to a role as Sales Director in Global markets. Joyce finished at the Top (#1) for two consecutive years 2017 and 2018.
She is the black female founder behind Why Sales Network, which provides education and training tools for the success of college students, recent grads, sales professionals, and their supporting leadership teams.
Sells Network is an organization put together to further educate individuals about the sales profession, and provide them with tips and strategies, processes for success in their sales careers. Oval, we created to have something extra for our members, so the Oval is a free membership that we offer when they sign up they receive two free copies of my eBooks and then they also receive access to some of the other programming that we have. Because we do not send out everything publicly, so it is a portal to be able to educate further and train people. They have been asking me to do a master class, so it is a master class in a box, but it is inside the boxes of Oval.
How have things changed for you, we are all experiencing global pandemic we have had to adapt some of the things that we are doing, and our customers have had to do the same. Give us some idea of the way you have changed and then the way your customers have had to change?
Well, my customers have had to go from working into an office, in most cases, to a virtual space and it is on the student side been a challenge. Because now they are doing virtual learning, a lot of them must pack up without much notice and go home. I think they were feeling overwhelmed with a lot of uncertainty. What we decided to do is, I had to check and adjust. I asked myself what does the world need for me right now, and what am I able to give? So, with that, I said okay people are going to need resources and information. We were planning for an event that was going to take place on Bimini island in the Bahamas, and we had to redirect. We made that an online event, but we also made some changes to it, instead of it being your standard sales program that you go to a sales conference. We added things like meet the recruiter within the process, which allow people to get comfortable to talk to recruiters and ask questions about how do I engage you now virtually? What are you, recruiters expecting? How do I find you what should my resume look like? How should I prepare for a virtual interview and things of that nature? Now we have added on to meet the recruiter program, and we are having another one coming up, we are going to do them quarterly so there will be one in November and there will be another in January.
A whole new avenue, and opportunity?
Yes, I also had to realize some of the things that we were going to do online would not bring us the financial impact to the business that we were experiencing when we could do in-person and have events. But we still needed to do those things to support the individuals that were helping us right! We are also doing webinars every month for individuals, we are doing webinars like financial investing, doing covet real estate buy sales you buy or sell. Right now, I am structuring small business where we are having like the small business association and other groups on their franchising organization to educate you on franchises. Then we are doing mental health in December right because right now people are really struggling emotionally and mentally trying to get through this pandemic. We are steady fast with the programs that we initially had our conferences. We are doing whatever we can, as I always say, inform, educate, and engage our audience and give them what they need.
Tell me more about your sweet spot your audience for the services that you provide?
We have two target audiences, and the reason for that is because I mentor college students, and I have been mentoring college students for nearly 20 years now when I think about it. So, my initial college babies, they are now millennials, and they are moving into leadership, and they are in that sales spectre they’re coming to me, and they’re saying well, and this is the reason for Why Sales Network. Giving them what they need because they said we understand you’re supporting college students but we’re grown up now, and we need something else from you, so the millennial base that person it’s 30 to 54 is for Why Sales Network who engage with us the most. But for our college podcast and my speaking engagements from my virtual speaking engagements and things we have the college students and individuals that are from 18 to 25. The college students are 18 to 25 are they the ones that have they have done sales courses and then they need that extra level coaching to get access into the industry or are you giving that sales education? I am giving them that sales education, my goal is to help people understand that no matter what your area of study is you can take those transferable skills and information and get a job in the sales profession. Before this call, a Mom and her con that I’ve been coaching called me because he interviewed for buyer position with academies so they called and they said how should this letter look right, we want to make sure this letter looks right Mrs Joyce. I am telling students, especially right now, it is so timely if you studied medicine and you cannot get a job in a medical field, sell medical supplies, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals. One of my sorority sisters nieces, working out for pharmaceutical companies sales if you’re a political science major right now the government is so stressed with trying to provide services they aren’t interviewing as much as they should be in some cases. Instead, go to companies that have a vertical market, a public sector government market. Speak the language and sell for them and while you are communicating and touching people whom you talk to. Shake hands well not covet maybe bump elbows but build rapport relationship with those people so that you can find the job in the industry you want and stay relevant. You continue to use that information and those tools and the language that you used in college.
It always amazes me that this is the sales profession, but there is not a sales standard for education. You cannot go to University and or do a Diploma or some formal education; it is spotty globally, there should be a global standard of what that means to be a sales professional. If you are a doctor or a lawyer, all these other professions have a formal education. Historically, many people have fallen into Sales they had not planned. But then loved it and had a great career and earned good money, so it just seems there’s an opportunity here, there’s a need, there’s a demand, and there are good experiences of trade but why haven’t we got the professional training to back that up to filter that through?
Absolutely and some of the colleges are now offering Sales Degree programs and some offering Sales Certificate programs but not nearly enough. You make an excellent point when students graduate, and this is what I try to share with them. The students that graduate they are going to move in jobs that are selling positions, they may not say sales. Still, you and I know if you are going to be a Recruiter, a Loan Officer or a Real Estate working in a real estate company most jobs even if they say Customer Service are sales. My favourite one, is the Enterprise Car Rental, they hire all these college students for customer service jobs, and when you go to the Airport you get a car they’re upselling you, it is a sales job right! I am not sure that they all receive the training that they really should do that well.
Most of the jobs that are going to be available when they finish college whether they say Sales or not, they are going to be Sales jobs. If these employers, the colleges, and universities were more honest with the students about that and prepared them for those jobs, they would be more successful at it. That is why people get the lousy myth for sales because they were not adequately prepared when they went into that first job, they did not know that it was sales. In addition to that, no matter what position you have, you are going to have goals you must meet, you are going to have targets. Do not be afraid of it go into the one that is going to be most fulfilling; it has been a fantastic career. You are right if it was just an essential skill like everyone is going to have to do this, like math. We all have to negotiate, we always have to provide a service, all of these are sales attributes, so if it was just this is how business works, this is how to communicate with your customer, this is what is expected. The problem is as soon as you put sales into it then people go off on a tangent. That is my most significant challenge when I am trying to go out and talk to Universities and Colleges about sales. So everyone says well you should go in and talk about something else and I do have other programs like own your diversity, navigating a corporate pie that prepares them for the workforce but I don’t want to sugar-coat it is sales. My most challenging sell is to those administrators and people responsible for careers, and they’ve been getting away with the fact that we have 97% placement, no you don’t, you had 97% placement of the students who reported. The other 30 40 of students that did not report back because they do not have a job. If you train them in sales, they can take the transferable skills that you have taught them here at the University level and they can go and get a job. As I say get off their parents’ couch because their rooms are no longer their rooms, their places have been converted to something else.
Was your access to this whole area that you cover?
The way I got into sales; I got a little exposed to it in college while working in the sports information department. I went to school. I wanted to be a journalist I was a journalist. I have always been a writer that lead to publishing my books finally. When I graduated from college, I was working in a department store selling shoes, but they did not name it sales. It was Customer Service Associate, and I was earning generous commissions and doing a great job, but you graduate from college you feel like you need to get that after-college job. My first job in sales was not great; it was commission only and not having the resources and people and development things that you need. I found my way back to sales, and I loved it, and I wanted, and I thrived in it, and I studied it, and there were people mentors there for me, and there were resources and what have you. So, I want to help other students as they graduate understand that even if you are going to get something else the best entry into a company is through the sales department. That is right people enter sales all the time with wanting to go to HR and Training and Development other careers eventually, but sales are a good entry into any organization. Sales are such a great skill; it will never be something you should regret because you will always take those skills forward with whatever you choose to do after that. If you decide to change absolutely and it changes you on how to navigate, how to build relationships, how to influence leadership decisions that are being taken.
Many years ago, USA school started requiring all students to take a speech class so that they can learn how to speak openly and get over their fear of speaking, at a minimum they should take a sales class. Talking about people going into sales as a career I’m interested in your view on diversity and how the sales industry has progressed because it’s all very well students going into it but are they received well depending on that their backgrounds? It may be that you have got a personal story coming from a sales background or other experience you would like to share? Yes, well when I left corporate last year, I was vice president of the African-American business resource group, which is an employee resource group, the affinity group for those who are not aware of that. I was active with the Women’s Resource group. I volunteered for community service with the Hispanic Resource group. I did some planning partnerships with the Veteran Resource groups because both my Dad and my Grandfather were Marines, I have a lot of experience. I think that the companies are focused on diversity and bringing in diversity hires the work needs to be done on the inclusiveness.
Diversity is one thing, but are people feeling included in the organization; then you decrease your turnover, you have longevity and people staying and feeling more committed to the organization.
I say to companies one thing that I got from one of my mentors in diversity before is that your video must look like your audio. Unfortunately in many cases that don’t happen and especially around our African-American students which are why I’m thinking that we’re going to do an hbcu tour I’m looking for a grant to do it so we can do it right. The reason for that is I see where companies will interview African-American graduates and put them in a call centre inside sales and give them $30,000 base plus commissions maybe $35,000 plus commissions, and it’s oh you should be happy to have this type of theme right! Then they take the young white kids and other races, and they put them in outside sales, and they give them a $50 – $60,000 base salary, and they earn a hundred thousand dollars their first year, buy their first home. So, the work still needs to be done. I have companies reaching out to me, asking for help with their diversity and inclusion strategies because of the work I have done in diversity and inclusion. I’m saying to them if your plan is a one-year plan I’m not interested because someone has to be hired and trained within the 18 months first before you even know if you’re doing a good job somewhat on keeping them. Then you need to go back to them and find out what is going to keep them there, how are they feeling about being with the organization right now? I am taking because I have always led diversity by what I say is my heart and common sense. I am taking a certificate program from Cornell University and diversity and inclusion because I wanted to get the foundational basis of diversity inclusion and understand the terminology. To make sure that the way that I am leading people is in the right direction. I do think that we still need to have some work done there has been many times, even last year where I was the only woman and person of colour in the room. I’m training the students that my female students and African-American students ask me about it, I’m candid with them and transparent and say, that’s okay you’re in the room make the best of being in the room, yeah make it count. People asked me one interview that I had, how was it a woman how did you go into these meeting? I never thought of the meetings of going in as a woman; I just thought of going in as Joyce Johnson. Whenever there was a challenge about my colour or me being a woman that did come up, I was ready for it, but I was not waiting on it. I just went in knowing that I was the best professional there and the best person to do the job. Your view on inclusivity it is all very well being diverse, but unless people feel comfortable, they are not going to stay any way you are not going to get the numbers.
I remember when I was doing my MBA, and I had this French Professor come in, it was the first time we were talking about diversity here. She was saying to the MBA group from her research her answer to it was, and I tell you, Joyce I got so mad. Honestly, this woman was saying that the answer was that the ethnic minorities within companies need training and mentoring so that they can cope with the situation. She has got this twisted. If you are welcoming as you have said, Joyce, a diverse audience it is about making them feel included not by separating them saying you have got the problem. It is the culture that needs to adapt and change for it to be inclusive.
Yes well, that has been the approach when you think about the employee resource groups, that is precisely what has been happening you guys get together and figure it out and support one another, mentor one another. We do that, and it makes me chuckle a little bit, when they say D E I right, because the equity piece, really came after the I. What they need to realize is either you get this right, or it’s not going to be about D E I, it’s going to be about D I E. the organization is going to die because it’s not going to have the diverse thought and the diversity. The court systems have been doing this unknowingly when you have a jury; you have a jury of multiple people the conversation expands. Because you have that African-American on the jury, you have the Hispanic injury, you have the white male you have, and they sit there as jurors. They talk things out, and they all bring diverse views to get the outcome of what is needed. A great example I love DIE, I might borrow that from you Joyce. You can have it because I tell them do not put the E in the middle. After all, E came last, and E came last for a reason, but when you saw it you got afraid, and so you moved it to the middle no don’t move it to the centre.
Everyone is looking for an acronym for everything else, but they were afraid of that acronym D I E.
Joyce, with all your years of experience what is the one tried and tested strategy you would offer listeners to help them to scale their sales?
Follow up, I say to my students and everyone all the time. Get up, show up and follow up and follow up again and follow up again. It is proven that the salesperson that is most successful follows up three to five times, and many do not because they get discouraged. It is okay if people say no, sometimes no means, not right now. No means that yes I’m busy or I don’t have the funds, find out why the no, continue to ask to follow up and ask why not right now and they say no because I don’t need your product service okay now you can move on. But if it is no because I do not have money right now, I know because I have not gotten the pros or things. Follow up yeah get up, show up and follow up, is essential and especially right now too. To believe in something greater than ourselves is something else I always tell my college students and get up every morning dust yourself off no matter what you’re feeling go deep bring it up to get up show up and follow up every day.
Fantastic, so Joyce, if you are on a desert island on your own what is the one thing you would take with you?
I said water to that and I because I don’t know I don’t think they’re going to have a lot of water in the desert and I want to be able I know if water hydrates me. Water hydrates you, it keeps you thinking, keeps your mind clear and keeps your body clear and cleanse, and so I feel that I would need some water. As long as I have water, I want to write a book I can write it in the sand; I can write it on write notes on a rock, I can take some stones and build a fire what have you there’s probably something out there that I can fight with and kill and cook some food. But some water to keep my mind hydrated my body dehydrated so I can continue to think. What is the one way that listeners can get hold of you, I will put more show notes and references in? I am on LinkedIn quite often so Joycej on LinkedIn because I know there is a lot of Joyce Johnson’s, but I have been on LinkedIn a very long time, so I have Joyce j which is pretty simple. Also, I have a personal website. I am Joyce Johnson. I am on all social media Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube as I am Joyce Johnson. Then, of course, through our organization Why Sales Network. Excellent it has been a real pleasure thank you for sharing your experience and your knowledge, thank you for being a guest on Scale Your Sales podcast, Joyce Johnson. Thank you.
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