In the opinion of many sales and ethics don’t go together. In fact, the general view is that salespeople engage in exaggeration, stretch the truth about product benefits or availability and push people into a purchase they don’t need. Unfortunately, such coldblooded salespeople still exist, but they will never turn out to be successful in the long-run.
It is surprising to me how little discussion has been around the ethics of sales, as I understand the positive contribution that ethical standards make to sustained business growth to be obvious. Research from the APS (Association of Professional Sales) has now found a positive link between companies that apply ethical standards and business performance; and I support their statement that “Good Ethics is Good Business”.
Sales Ethics – a solid foundation for trust
A key element of long-term business success is the art of earning a customers’ trust. Regardless of a company’s reputation, customers choose to do business with people they can rely on. Trust is a business currency that becomes more important, but more difficult to gain. It has never been easier for customers to switch to a competitor or even harm a business’ reputation if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
Customer trust can only be earned by ethical sales behaviour and by following these 5 rules of genuine customer-centricity:
- Provide full disclosure. Always provide clear and concise information and know what you are talking about. Take your time to really understand your customer’s needs and the benefits of the products or services you sell in order to provide the most accurate and competent information possible.
- Choose honesty over a quick win. Customers eventually find out what lies and falsehoods they were told. If you don’t have the information required, be honest and seek to get back to the customer with a correct and useful answer. Do you know that another product or service would be the better fit for the person? Sacrifice an immediate sale to maintain integrity and you’ll strengthen your reputation and with that the chance to receive referrals. Provide objective advice and you’ll gain credibility.
- Compete in the spirit of fair play. Criticising the competition is not honourable. Your competitors exist for good reason. Instead find and highlight your unique selling proposition and future potential. Believe in your superiority, but always be honest about competitors if you are asked.
- Take responsibilities for problems. It’s tempting to blame someone else if a problem arises. Don’t tell “white lies” just to avoid embarrassing moments. Acknowledge mistakes whilst at the same time producing a satisfactory solution.
- Be benevolent. Selling is about solving problems and assisting customers to achieve their goals. Customers expect you to help them make the right decision and that’s a desirable thing you can do. Work in the customer’s best interest and you’ll win an ambassador for your business.
It has to be the goal of every business to strive for long-term, sustainable success. Start with a customer-centric mind set of every member of your organisation. Always remember: Trust is developed through repeated interactions between both parties in which the customer observes the business to be consistent, competent, honest, fair, responsible, and benevolent.
By Richard Lane, Founder and Partner at durhamlane, a leading sales performance company with the passion to raise the bar of the sales profession and helping organisations accelerate their growth exponentially; Creator of the proven Sales Methodology Selling at a Higher LevelTM