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PODCAST 108: An Honest Conversation About Race in Corporate America with Devante Lewis-Jackson

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This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Devante Lewis-Jackson, one of the top rising sales leaders helping companies grow in New York City and most recently a sales manager at The Muse.

The Muse helps people navigate their entire career journey and companies recruit top talent from a diverse pool of qualified candidates. Devante is the founder of Revenue Collective of Color, which is a sub community that’s been created within Revenue Collective for people of color. We talk about his experience around race in America and about what it’s like in situations wherein others can imagine but don’t know and therefore struggle to empathize.

If you missed episode 107, check it out here: 107: Origin Stories and the Core Principles of Sales Leadership with Lori Richardson

What You’ll Learn

  • Who is Devante Lewis-Jackson and what is Revenue Collective of Color
  • The four phases of sales management
  • The origin story of Revenue Collective of Color
  • The experience of being a black salesperson in corporate America
  • How to make the faces of corporate America accurately reflect the faces of the U.S.

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:04]
  2. About Devante Lewis-Jackson and Revenue Collective of Color [02:40]
  3. The four phases of sales management [9:30]
  4. The origin story of Revenue Collective of Color [11:42]
  5. The experience of being a black salesperson in corporate America [16:32]
  6. How to make the faces of corporate America accurately reflect the faces of the U.S. [22:35]
  7. Sam’s Corner [37:27]

Show Introduction (~300 words) [00:10]

Sam Jacobs: Welcome to the Sales Hacker Podcast. Today’s show is an interview. It’s a conversation with Devante Lewis-Jackson who was most recently a sales manager at The Muse. When we recorded this episode, he was on the market, but I’m sure he’s going to find a gig somewhere soon. We talk about his experience as a black man in America in sales and how he got into sales. He is the founder of Revenue Collective of Color, which is a sub community that we’ve created within Revenue Collective for people of color.

We’ve got a new sponsor on the show, a really great company, Chorus.ai. As companies adapt to this… I’m about to read their copy. This is me describing to you Chorus. Chorus. As companies adapt to this new normal, keeping your sales team moving together is more essential than ever. Chorus.ai is a conversation intelligence platform that provides key insights into the sales conversation your team is having every day. Record, share, review, and coach your team based on the voice of your customer.

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Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Devante Lewis-Jackson.

About Devante Lewis-Jackson and Revenue Collective of Color [02:40]

Sam Jacobs: On today’s show, we’re excited and lucky to have a friend of mine and a colleague and somebody that I crossed paths with in previous roles, a man named Devante Lewis-Jackson. Let me tell you a little bit about Devante. First of all, he’s one of the top rising sales leaders and account executives and just people that can help companies grow in the New York City area. We worked together when I was at The Muse and so is he.

Also, importantly, I guess from a self-interested perspective or from a community perspective, he is the founder and the leader of a community that we call Revenue Collective of Color, which is a sub community within the broader Revenue Collective focused on people of color, focused on black people, and helping create a safe and inclusive space for black people, black sales professionals, black marketing professionals that can join a broader global community, but also have a place for themselves, managed by themselves where they can also talk about issues that are specific to what they face every day. We’re going to talk about a lot of that and also just talk about Devante’s approach to salesmanship and his sales career. Welcome, Devante, to the show.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: Sam, thanks. I’m glad to be here.

Sam Jacobs: We’re excited to have you. I guess tell us your current situation however you’re comfortable describing it for the listeners out there.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I’m pretty comfortable. I think it’s a reality that a lot of folks are facing. Most recently I was with a company called The Muse where you said, Sam, you and I crossed paths for about five years. I was part of a reduction in force. The company went from around 80 or 90 people on their team page to under 40. That was about two weeks ago. But again, I mean, anyone who has a LinkedIn profile or social media or just is not under a rock right now you’re seeing a lot of organizations are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 from an economic perspective. They’re either furloughing people or outright letting them go. I was a part of the latter group of people.

Sam Jacobs: I’ve been fired many times as you are aware actually. At least for you it wasn’t personal. I’m sorry to hear it, but I’m sure you’re going to get back on your feet. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into sales.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I’m from Jersey through and through. I was born in Freehold. My parents had just graduated from high school, so I was born in the summer before college. Imagine that. They both had other plans, but decided to stay local to raise me. My dad ended up going to Seton Hall University, which is about an hour away from home, and my mother went to Georgian Court University, which is actually in Lakewood. Fortunately enough for her, there was a school there. I spent my time kind of bouncing back and forth between them in New Jersey. Ultimately I wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps and go to Seton Hall.

While there, I started working at the Apple Store, so a little bit of retail sales experience, which personally I think retail or people who were waitresses or waiters, bartenders and so on, have an edge to them so they can make really great salespeople. But after Apple, I decided I was supposed to get a real job, right? Tuck my shirt in every day. Go sit in an office. I started working at Nissan, North America in their regional headquarters. Interestingly enough, I had actually been hired right after their own reduction in force. Folks who weren’t exactly excited to see me because they had friends that they had been working with for years that were gone. It wasn’t a great environment for me.

I also wasn’t familiar with what folks did in the summertime out in The Hamptons or having boats and so on, so I really wasn’t able to relate to a lot of the older, more senior people that were there that I was working for and decided I wanted something new. Found a company called The Muse and actually was applying to jobs on the site and said, “You know what? I want to work here.” I was the person that most sales leaders might not hire right now because I didn’t want to be in sales. I didn’t care what I did. I was indifferent. I just wanted to work for this company. I slid into the DMS on Twitter of the then VP of marketing.

For like six to seven weeks straight, I was DM-ing him regularly, whether it was Eagles stuff that we were both bonding over or outright saying, “I want to come work for you and with you at The Muse.” He finally responded and said, “Listen, I’m not hiring for anyone on the marketing team. You might not know this yet, but you have a lot of sales skills.” He introduced me to Doug Freeman, who’s actually another Revenue Collective member now, and Doug took a chance on me, gave me my first shot, and I’ve been able to, or was able to I should say, rise through the ranks at The Muse from account executive to team lead and finished my tenure there as a mid-market sales manager.

Sam Jacobs: Why did you think you didn’t want to be in sales?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I think like most people, and this is one of the tenets of RCOC and the Revenue Collective in general, bI had a really bad idea or character of what sales was, right? It was selling someone something they didn’t need. If you think about whether it’s like hip hop songs or all of the sleazy things people say, right? Selling water to a whale and all that other stuff. I just assumed that sales was in fact convincing someone to do something that they didn’t want to do. I definitely had a negative perspective of what a salesperson was, so that’s why I was reaching out to the VP of marketing. But luckily my mind was changed and here we are.

Sam Jacobs: Has your mind changed? Tell us what you think of sales now.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I don’t want to say the cliche “sales is helping people” because there is a bit of getting people to do stuff not necessarily when they don’t want to, but potentially before they want to, right? Getting them to move with urgency. But I think sales is literally finding out where someone or where an organization is, figuring out where they want to be, and seeing if your product or service can help them get there. If it can, cool, go for it. If not, then you’re being kind of sleazy.

Sam Jacobs: But also maybe they don’t know where they want to be. Maybe that’s part of it. Not everybody knows where they want to be, so maybe you can help lead the way that you think the world should align with the way they think the world should be. Do you agree with that or not?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I would agree with that, but I think if there really isn’t a world where you’re in alignment on that end goal for them, right? Like if you can convince them that that ideal state is where they should be and they agree there, then you can come back and say, “Okay, how do we get you there?” Maybe we can take a step back and agree on that, agreeing on selling them on where they should be, getting on the same page there, and then helping them get there. But if their future state is not in line with what you have for them, then you’re just trying to push them in the direction they don’t want to go.

The Four Phases of Sales Management [9:30]

Sam Jacobs: If you’re going to go back in time to yourself one year into your time at The Muse, you’re crushing it as an ingenue, like a prodigy salesperson that’s closing a bunch of deals and you say, “I’ve come back from the future to tell you what it’s like to really be a sales manager. Here’s the things you need to know,” what are those things?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I actually have broken it down into like four phases. I would say, “Hey, Devante, your job as a manager is to do four things. It’s to support, empower, remove roadblocks, and inform leadership.” Right? From a support perspective, providing air cover is really important. Not coming in and closing deals for your reps, but being able to get in a call with them, get in the weeds as needed, but also empowering them is making sure that they feel like they can play around the edges, they can push the needle, and that they’re being given autonomy to run the ideal process, right? That’s supporting them and empowering them. Removing roadblocks is really important.

Some of them your team’s never even going to know about. It could be something that’s getting pushed down from leadership that you pushed back on and it never makes it to them. In other cases, it could be just internal friction where you need to go and talk to a different team and get them to view things through the eyes of a salesperson, which could be very helpful. Then the last thing is informing leadership, which in a way will end up helping your sales reps, but that’s more of how you can help the company in terms of saying, “Hey, here’s what I’m hearing on the front lines. Our product doesn’t align with this, or here’s what I’m hearing on the front lines. This other competitor is starting to come up and we need to get ahead of them.”

But for me, the four tenets of a good sales manager would be supporting your team, empowering them, removing roadblocks, and then informing leadership on what you’re getting from the front lines.

Sam Jacobs: Did you develop that framework yourself?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I can’t take credit for it, but I listen to so many podcasts and YouTube videos and books that I can’t remember where I got the bits and pieces from, but those are the four things that I try to think about every day as a manager.

The Origin Story of Revenue Collective of Color [11:42]

Sam Jacobs: I like it. Let’s talk about how we’re working together. What is the background? Tell us just a little of the origin story of Revenue Collective of Color, RCOC, and why you think it’s important that this exists.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I was fortunate enough to be in the inaugural class of people in the Revenue Collective Associate Program, right? This was for people that are director level and beloved rising stars in their own right. It was about six or seven of us from directors, individual contributors, people on the client success side and then myself. I was young and an early manager. Throughout the first year I was given a lot of opportunities to learn, A, directly from you, Sam, and B, from other people in the Revenue Collective Associate Program, and then to extend my tentacles out to direct Revenue Collective folks.

I was invited by you to attend one of the quarterly offsites, which was pretty cool, right? I’m at this quarterly offsite and I’m jazzed up. Only two people from the Revenue Collective Associate Program are allowed to be there, I’m kind of pumping out my chest a bit. I’m in this room with VPs of sales, chief revenue officers, entrepreneurs, consultants, and so on. You had at that particular offsite a VC or two come in and talk and people were just throwing around numbers and figures that like I didn’t know were possible. This was amazing for me. But during the event, one of the things that I wrote about in the article was I kept making eye contact with the bartender. He was the only other black person that was in the room, right? The only other person that looked like me.

There was this feeling that I didn’t belong there. I know that that wasn’t a feeling that was created on purpose, but looking around at all these people who are 10, 15, 20 years ahead of where I want to be and not seeing anyone that kind of looked like me made me feel like, is this the right room for me? Right? There are definitely some people who that’s their thing, they break down barriers. They’re like, “You know what? I’m going to be the first,” and all that stuff. But then there was another side which is like, “Hey, I don’t really see myself here. Should I be here?” A few days later, sent you an email essentially outlining that and you were responsive. I know you don’t want to get a whole bunch of praise on your own podcast, but you were like, “What can we do? How do we make this happen?”

That was the foundation and the origin story for RCOC, Revenue Collective of Color. Quickly jump into RCOC, I will say that one of the quick things that I learned that I’ll have to publicly correct you on your podcast is that people of color are definitely a group that goes beyond just black folks. For me, I didn’t realize that the actual… I believe the title of the article that I posted on LinkedIn was, We need to get more black people and enterprise sales, but that was really the only direct reference to black people. The rest of the post referred to people of color. After I posted that, sales leaders with Filipino backgrounds, Latin American backgrounds, Caribbean backgrounds started reaching out to me like, “Hey, how can I get involved? What can I do?”

That was the initial eye-opener of like, okay, RCOC is going to be awesome, but Revenue Collective of Color is going to be from people who identify as a person of color. While I only have the perspective of what it’s like to be a heterosexual black male, there are other people who have very different backgrounds and experiences that are shared that are definitely welcome in RCOC and, of course, are welcome in Revenue Collective.

Sam Jacobs: We’re in a sensitive space right now, but I think that’s kind of like one of the points of having you on the podcast is to see if we can break down some walls and have some good honest conversations. I agree with you completely. People of color means a lot of different things and no one thing is better than the other thing. I also know that I specifically am also particularly, not most, but particularly motivated by making sure that black people, specifically African-Americans, feel extremely, extremely welcome within Revenue Collective. Because to your point, when you sent me that message, I mean, it just resonated. I don’t know what that’s like, to be honest with you.

RELATED: Equality in the Workplace: A Fresh Approach to Sales Performance

The Experience of Being a Black Salesperson in Corporate America [16:32]

Sam Jacobs: I’m a minority. I’m Jewish, but nobody can tell that I’m Jewish. You know? It’s different. I really appreciate you sharing that story because it’s got to be hard. What’s your experience being a black salesperson in Corporate America whatever the company is?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: For me, it’s definitely something I notice immediately, right? I will quickly put one quick question back to you because I want to know what your answer is. When you walk into the room, what’s the first thing that you’re looking for? Just any room full of people. What’s the first thing you’re looking at?

Sam Jacobs: I think I know what I’m supposed to say and you’re right, I’m looking for people that look like me.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: Yeah, but when the whole room looks like you, it becomes something that’s so natural that you don’t even do it, right?

When I walk into a room, I quickly scan. It’s not necessarily like I walk into a room full of no one that I know and I see the first black person and I make a beeline to them and like dap them up and I’m like, “Yo, what’s going on? I’m glad to see you here.” That’s not my style. That’s not who I am. But when you see a room full of people that is diverse and it’s just like mixed, there’s a level of comfort that’s there for me that’s not there otherwise. Most companies that I’ve worked for, most rooms that I’ve walked into, that’s just how I feel. Now, there’s a degree of, do people see me, right? Do they speak to me the same way they’re speaking to everyone else that’s in the room?

Am I afforded the same opportunities everyone else is not because of special treatment, but just because I’m there? That’s important too. But for me as a seller, right, I think that’s the really big difference because there’s being a black person in corporate America, which I believe like there’s so much to unpack there, but also as a seller, there’s like this credibility and this feeling of, I’m going to sit down in a room. I’ve sat down in plenty of rooms, board rooms, large tables, and it’s myself and I’m selling to six, seven, eight people and none of them would like me. It’s just this kind of irritating idea in the back of my mind like, are they paying attention to me? Is my blackness somehow not necessarily offending them, but are they seeing beyond that?

Are they actually trusting me to be someone that can help them, right? Because that’s what sales is. For me, that was something that it was always hard to get to go away. I could say, at The Muse when I was an individual contributor, I closed about 79 deals and I went back and looked through all of them. Of those 79 deals, only three of them were the DM or someone on the decision-making team, a person of color that was at least introduced to me. Maybe there was someone in the background, but I think that was really big, right? To have such a small percentage be featured that way, like it’s tough. It even goes back to Nissan, right? I remember I was so excited to leave Apple, which was great from a retail perspective, but to leave Apple and go to Nissan.

I got there and the only other person that’s a black person there was a secretary and she was definitely like at or around my mom’s age, which was really weird because for me it was like, hey, how do I print this? It was like, just ask Danielle and she can do it for you. I was like I’m not asking Danielle to do anything that I can do my damn self because my mom would lose her mind if she knew I was doing that. It’s definitely an uncomfortable conversation. There’s no right answer. I’m also not a DENI expert, right? This is just me speaking from my own perspective. But definitely like being a black person in sales, it’s always wondering, are they able to see past my blackness and just see me?

Then once it gets like passing past it, then it’s like embracing it. I have my own experiences and I’m a regular person just like you are, but that’s always something that’s a little bit daunting for me when I walk into that room or walk into that boardroom and I’m the only person there. It does feel like all of a sudden I’m the spokesperson for black salespeople in New York City or something like that, which is definitely not the case.

Sam Jacobs: Before RCOC existed, who did you share these experiences with who could nod their head and say, “I know exactly what you mean?” Did you have people that you shared that with?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: No, I didn’t. I would talk to my dad about it. My dad has never worked in corporate America. I think he did for a little bit after college, but he’s a coach and he’s a teacher, but he has his master’s degree. He’s very well educated. He started a few businesses, so I would get a lot of advice from him, but no. Among my friends and where I’m from, typically it’s like, okay, if you want to be successful, you should be like a doctor or a lawyer. I think a majority of people from various backgrounds that’s how they feel, right? It’s not like a particular thing for black people. My best friend is an emergency room doctor in Chicago.

We can’t really talk about what it’s like to be in a sales position, but what I can say is when he had to choose this residency program, I was furious that he was leaving New York to go to Chicago. But when I asked him why he was doing that, he was like, “I couldn’t find another residency program that had a black head of like…I think it was surgery.” It was like, “I’m going to go to the coldest place in the world, or at least in America, and I’m going to leave my family. I want to do all of this just so that the head of my department who I will rarely even interact with is a black person and that makes me feel comfortable.” Even there, it’s really unique to see how people from different backgrounds are doing that.

But to get to your specific question, no, until joining Revenue Collective, until joining RCOC and being introduced to a few folks, I didn’t have a mentor that was a person of color specifically in Corporate America or in sales.

How to Make the Faces of Corporate America Accurately Reflect the Faces of the U.S. [22:35]

Sam Jacobs: You have a gift card story you wanted to share, let me ask you about that and then I want to talk about, well, what can we do differently? How do we make it so that the faces of corporate America more accurately reflect the faces of the United States and the world?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: Obviously sales people have their compensation plan, which is usually put together between their base salary and their variable, and their variable is tied to their bookings and so on. But occasionally you’ll run something called a spiff, incentive program, whatever you want to call it, which is pretty much saying, “Hey, whoever does the most of X over this three week period, we’ll give you a $100 gift card,” something like that. The company I was previously at, The Muse, they’re big fans of those. I think they actually work really well, but what we were doing was we had run a particular spiff that somehow netted out to like close to eight or $900 in gift cards that we needed to go and get.

We went and we bought close to a thousand dollars worth of gift cards. We’re in the Duane Reade and it’s myself and the sales director, who happens to be a white woman. We bantered back and forth. She’s a really good counterpart of mine and she’d be like, “Hey, can you go to the store and buy this fifth design?” I’m like, no. “Hey, we’re going to have a happy hour. Can you go and buy a couple of bottles of wine?” I’d be like, “Yeah, I’ll buy it. Venmo me,” right? I’d always use my card because I’m never going to go and try to buy something with someone else’s credit card. It doesn’t make me comfortable. We are at the Duane Reade and we’re there, we’re buying $800 worth of gift cards, myself and my counterpart, the sales director.

She hands our boss’ credit card to the cashier and it gets declined, right? Okay. The cashier runs it again, it gets declined. Cashier asks for her ID, she hands the ID and says, “This is my boss’ card. I’ll call him just to get him to approve it.” The cashier looks at the card. I won’t name names, but their names are very different, right? Not even close to being something you could mistake at by looking quickly, but the manager comes over and proceeds to try and swipe the credit card again. Now we’re up to three or four times trying to run this AMEX and it continues to get declined. My sales director calls our VP of revenue and she’s like, “Hey, the card keeps getting declined. Can you press one when AMEX texts you to approve it?”

He says he did it. She tells him. It gets declined again, right? Now we’re up to I believe four or five times this card gets declined. We’re holding up a line. There’s like eight to 10 people behind us and everyone’s just being so accommodating. I’m like, wow, I’ve never seen this before. Finally, on like the sixth time, they swipe the card, it gets approved. It’s like seven or eight different gift cards. It’s not one gift card. It’s like everyone they’re scanning and trying to make sure it does the right way, so this is a bit of a process. In the back of my mind I’m like, this would never happen if it was me, but I just kind of put it out there in the environment. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that. But there was one sales rep who was not there.

It also happened to be that there was a limit with the amount of gift cards. We had to come back and buy one gift card that following Monday or Tuesday and it was only for $100. It wasn’t a very large amount. I get tasked with going to the store using that credit card to buy a gift card and I’m not really comfortable doing this. I don’t know how many ways I can try to explain that I’m uncomfortable doing this. I don’t want to go in the middle of New York City to a store and try to buy a gift card with someone else’s credit card. Anyway, I go to the store and the woman in the gift card for $100. I hand her the credit card, and before she swipes anything, she’s like, “Can I see your ID?”

I’m like, all right, here we go. Take out my license, handed to her, said, “Yup, this is my boss’ card. Buying a gift card for one of our employees.” She’s like, “No, sir, we can’t do that.” I’m like, okay.

Sam Jacobs: Was it the same Duane Reade?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: It’s the same Duane Reade and it’s the same cashier.

Sam Jacobs: Oh no.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: The same cashier.

Sam Jacobs: Jesus Christ.
Devante Lewis-Jackson: I’m like, “Listen, I’m not really sure what you want me to do, but I was definitely here last week,” and I briefly kind of glossed over this scenario and was like, “And your manager even came over to help. Is your manager here,” thinking maybe the same gentleman was there and he’d recognize me. Unfortunately he wasn’t. Another woman comes over who’s the manager for the day. I explained what happened and I feel terrible because it’s like I’m asking you to do something that I know is technically wrong, but I’m also telling you that you did this already for someone else, so you should do it for me. I’m getting frustrated and so on, so I can’t get the gift card. She started to get a little upset, and she’s nice.

She doesn’t threaten to call security or anything, but she’s like, “Sir, I have no clue why that happened. There’s no reason we would do that in the past.” I’m like, “Listen, not only did you do it, but it was a scene and it spent almost 20 minutes trying to sell us gift cards.” But for me, that moment was really uncomfortable. But what bothered me the most was kind of coming back to the office and feeling like I can’t tell this story to anyone, right? I explained to the sales director, I was like, “Hey, you got to go buy the gift card. They wouldn’t let me get it.” She’s like, “I don’t understand why. Why wouldn’t they do that? They just did that with me.” I was like, “Yeah, I know.” I think that’s the disconnect, right? It’s like there’s a disconnect between what my reality is and someone else’s is. I totally get it, but it was that moment of like, why wouldn’t they just sell you the gift card, right? It was like, no, no, no.

It’s little stuff like that that regularly happens. It’s those random YouTube videos or Twitter videos of like someone just walking around the store and like getting followed and little things like that, but that adds up because it makes you feel like you don’t belong or you can’t be trusted. Then you have this age-old adage of you have to be twice as good and the large part of that is like you have to be twice as good because you can’t leave any room for error, right?

When I was talking earlier about empowering my team as a manager and pushing people to play around the edges, I was the complete opposite because I was so nervous in the beginning about pushing someone too far, then setting them off, feeling like I didn’t have as much rope as my counterparts did, which I think changes over time with confidence and so on. But yeah, it was like that ceiling that’s there, that door that’s there that you don’t even see it because it’s already opened, just going back to the story, it’s just like, no, the card wasn’t declined. The card didn’t even get swiped. There’s a very big difference between what you were doing and I was doing. But yeah, that’s my story.

Sam Jacobs: I like that story. I mean, I hate it, but it’s powerful. In our last few minutes together, Devante, what do you think can be done about this? How do we change it? I’m not trying to do this to wear a badge or to feel better about myself, I really want to do it because I do want to help and I don’t want anybody to feel like to walk around this country or go into an office and just feel like they’re not going to be treated the same because of how they look. I just don’t like that or what they believe or how they choose to dress, although I do think people should dress professionally, of course.

Devante Lewis-Jackson: Yes, you do.

Sam Jacobs: That’s not anything to do with gender or race or anything like that. You got to look nice. What should we do? What ideas do you have to change this? Do you have advice for companies or managers or humans on how we can help change this reality?

Devante Lewis-Jackson: I think one of the things that you can do if you’re not a person of color is like figure out how to be an ally in a natural way. Again, I’ll leave it to like the DEI experts and hopefully we can bring them in and have conversations with them and so on. But one of the things is like figuring out how you can make people feel comfortable or how can you create an environment where everyone is welcome? You hear the phrase is like “bringing your whole self to work” and something they said at The Muse, which I think they heard somewhere else, was like “diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.” All that good stuff, I get it, but it’s just like engaging people for who they are and don’t be afraid if someone has a different background.

Ask about them and get to know them and build those friendships and relationships. I think that’s really important, right? If you’re the type of person who, let’s say, you’re in the office and you realize that you’re only gravitating towards a certain clique, but there’s one or two people that like they just go home right after work. They’re never at the events. I think it’s easy to be like, “Oh, well, they just don’t want to come,” right, or, “They have things to do,” make a lot of assumptions, but no. It’s giving them the opportunity to tell you they’re not interested in coming, right? Give them the same opportunities that you give everyone else. Don’t just make those assumptions. That’s like on a peer to peer level.

I think from a company perspective, it’s the same kind of DNI practices that folks have from a hiring perspective. If you’re doing campus recruiting, don’t forget about HBCUs and other organizations that give kind of visibility to people of color and their backgrounds. There’s a lot of different things you can do. I’m sure there are a lot of different organizations that you can connect with. Ideally, RCOC in the future becomes one of them. That’s the exciting thing for me is that when I wrote the article and we decided to launch RCOC, all of a sudden a lot of people who were directors and VP of sales that were people of color started reaching out to me. I was like, “Oh, well, there you are.” Right? The exciting thing is that we’re not reinventing the wheel here.

There are absolutely people of color that are in leadership roles, in sales and revenue organizations and now it’s just getting them to come together. I think what’s really interesting is I googled black in sales, right, just to see if anything popped up, just to see what was out there. The first thing that popped up was the Black Sales Forum, which I’m not promoting another site out there because the Black Sales Forum hasn’t been updated in almost two and a half years. What burned me up was the next seven things on the Google search where Black Friday deals, like Black Friday sales, right?

To me, there really hasn’t been a concerted effort on building a community around people of color, on building a community around black people that are in sales, marketing, customer success, these revenue generating roles. I think simply by building RCOC and kind of following those core tenets of creating that safe space within the Revenue Collective for people of color, creating programming so that we can promote sales as a career opportunity for people of color so that they’re not like me when I first went to join The Muse and were like, “Well, no, no, no, no, I don’t want to do sales. Show me the marketing jobs,” right?

Really giving people visibility into the learning potential and the earning potential that sales provides, and then just having them join communities like Revenue Collective and having them interact with people that are in positions where they want to be. Those are the different steps that we can take. For me, I think that we’re not only talking the talk, but walking the walk and trying to create that space. I think it starts with what we’re doing right now, which is like having a conversation, understanding it’s not going to be a polished conversation and there are going to be awkward moments, but we have like tons of things and the years of being separated in so many different ways that we’re trying to kind of rectify.

It’s not going to happen in one day or one year, but just taking those steady steps towards creating a place where everyone feels comfortable and confident walking into any room that they’re in. It’s not necessarily about swiping somebody else’s credit card, but we should get to the point where a few offsites from now, it’s a very diverse group of people all sharing ideas and inspiring people from every background to get into sales and get into revenue generating roles.

Sam’s Corner [37:27]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. Sam Jacobs, Sam’s Corner. I really, really enjoyed that conversation with Devante. As I think about what is privilege, it’s the idea that the door was open and you just assumed it was open for everybody. That’s not the case for everybody in this country or the world. This conversation reminded me of that.

I’m really glad that Devante is leading Revenue Collective of Color. If you wanted to apply to join, you can go to revenuecollective.com. Obviously, I’m talking my book when I talk about Revenue Collective, but it is about creating spaces and opportunities to make sure that the world of business and the world of sales looks more like the world. I think that our work there as a human race, as the constituents and the voters of the United States, our work there has only just begun.

What We Learned

  • Who is Devante Lewis-Jackson and what is Revenue Collective of Color
  • The four phases of sales management
  • The origin story of Revenue Collective of Color
  • The experience of being a black salesperson in corporate America
  • How to make the faces of corporate America accurately reflect the faces of the U.S.

Don’t miss episode #109

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As always, thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

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