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Bob Dickerson: Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something

By Bob Dickerson

Nothing happens until somebody sells something. Those were the words on a sign inside of Louis J. Willie’s office during my time at Citizens Federal Savings Bank. Lou, A G Gaston’s top lieutenant, was doing double duty, serving as the president of the Citizen’s Federal, my employer and president of the Booker T Washington (BTW) Insurance Company, his main job.

Now if you know anything about insurance, especially pertaining to companies like BTW, you know that sales and selling were stressed above everything else. And even though I was in Lou’s office on bank business, it was always clear to me that the sign referenced insurance sales. There was no doubt about that.

That sign and the message it sent have lasted and guided a lot of my thoughts and actions for the past 40 years as I have embraced and promoted the notion that selling, or making sales is the most important thing a business can do. Period!

Sales or selling, creates revenue. There’s a transaction, a performance, something is provided, and something is exchanged. Giving something to someone in exchange for money is one of the simplest explanations of selling and sales revenue drives everything else. In fact, without customers there are no sales and without sales, there is no business.

The more you sell, the more revenue you create, the more likely you are to survive in business. There is no question that businesses and their owners must be capable, knowledgeable, and many cases experts in their field. However, to survive, much less thrive, they must acquire the ability to sell. Just as the Bible tells us that “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1Peter 4-8), sales can both cover some weaknesses in business and allow time for flaws to be corrected.

So, for those of us who are in the business of helping businesses, we must not forget or forego advocacy for increased sales by black firms.

  • Business plans must clearly identify sales and pricing strategies
  • Training must evolve to include sales training
  • Certification(s) should be sought where industry norms make them beneficial

It’s great to have a world class product or service, a first-rate facility, the best of the best in staff members and advisors but, at the end of the day, to sustain all of that you must sell.

The upcoming A G Gaston Conference will dedicate its Tuesday February 21 afternoon schedule to discussing how businesses avail themselves to market opportunities, especially those connected to corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), supplier diversity, certification and procurement.

Speakers and presenters include Kimberly Coffman, Voya’s head of supplier diversity, Al Williams, CEO, Southern Regions Minority Supplier Development Council, Ron Mathieu, President and CEO, Birmingham Shuttlesworth Airport and Atlanta business owner, Tracey Grace,  president & CEO of Atlanta-based IBEX IT Business Experts.

Over the past two years, conversations and initiatives regarding increasing opportunities for black businesses have increased tremendously. Organizers of next month’s conference, the 19th annual event, understand that sales are the key to business success, the sign in Lou Willie’s office rings true.  Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something!!!

The A G Gaston Conference takes place in the BJCC 3rd Floor East Meeting Rooms, beginning on Tuesday, February 21 with the AG Gaston Legacy Luncheon and a conversation with renowned business owner, Nicholas Perkins, owner of Black Titan Franchise System.  It concludes on Wednesday, February 22 with the Green Power Luncheon, featuring a keynote address by National Urban League President and CEO, Marc Morial.  The conference also features two dynamic Alabama mayors, Birmingham’s Randall Woodfin and Montgomery’s Steven Reed.

There’s even more including an awards reception and the conference signature Green Paper presentation. Please visit www.aggastonconference.biz for more information.

Bob Dickerson is Executive Director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center.