Sales Ethics: Oxymoron or Opportunity

A study in Business Horizons magazine from Indiana University, found that customers increasingly base their buying decisions on whether they believe a company is ethical. Credibility has replaced depth of product knowledge, trust has replaced being likable and partnership has replaced relationship. Cynicism promotes fickle buying habits. If we wish to improve our relationship with our clients, we must let the “stakeholders” know when they participate in undertakings with us that it benefits the health and wealth of their company. You can pull off 10 miracles for your buyer, but if those with bottom line responsibility do not know of your heroics, you have no relationship with the company. Your relationship is just with the buyer, making you just another vendor, instead of a strategic alliance or an "outside partner."

If you take a principal, ethical, genuine position in your selling, you will make lifelong customers out of even the most distrusting buyer. Remember that you are the common connection between our company and our buyers! Our company's ethics and integrity are based on the relationship between you, the salesperson, and the buyer. How does one build or maintain an ethical foundation that will make a lifelong customer?

Does my decision affect anyone else besides the bottom line and myself? If a salesperson falsely reported that a buyer has Okayed a change order for the sake of keeping up with the buyer's timetable, or tells the company, in order to win a project we have to be at certain price, but never did get a budget from the buyer, is simply cheating. This type of cheating ends up affecting many people in adverse ways.

One must consider the effect of one's decisions on the company, the customer, and on one's own integrity. The best decisions are made when you become "other focused." Will the greater good be for you or your customer or company? Focus on what is around you and what is the message. What kind of culture or ethics field are you in? Are you in a mentally healthy environment? Do you rise or fall to your surroundings or do you bring your surroundings to your level?

The overall goal needs to be - What can I do for you, to get you to cooperate with me? For life isn't in the getting, but in the giving. The degree that you give is to the degree you get!

How do you become successful, making sales or making loyal customers? When you "make a customer," not get an order; you have begun the process of establishing a trust dimension. This trust becomes the basis for not only your business, but also your relationships and the amount of referrals you receive. Trust is the basic building block of any business relationship. No one buys from people or companies they don’t trust or find not to be credible. All the product knowledge in the world will not get you a sale if the buyer's lacks trust.

Why would any customer buy from you if they do not trust you? Experience has proven that the more time you spend in building a solid trust-based relationship with your buyers, the more loyal they become and consequently the better your paycheck and the company's bottom line. The emphasis in sales today must go into trust and credibility building, not the making of a friend or not just into the sale of product or service. What is the basis of developing a trust dimension? It is honesty and being genuine.

Are ethics and service intertwined? What is good for the buyer must always supersede what's good for me. Going the "extra mile" for one's customer establishes a value based on added dimension that will build trust, alleviate worry, and become the basis for all future business. You need to prove how valuable each buyer is by being honest, customer focused and truly committed to exceeding your buyer's needs. When you are with a buyer, you should make them feel, that at this time, they are the only customer you have.

Time should be spent, understanding the buyer’s expectations and what the effects would be if they were not met. This is one of the key goals for developing business. Remember that the reason you got to meet with any prospect was that their reality was way below their expectations. They gave you the appointment because they had come to realize that neither their internal resources, nor their current vendor could help move their reality up closer to their expectations.

If you help your customers achieve their expectations; they will come back to you for what they want. We have to resolve expectations, before we can identify and resolve needs. How are needs fulfilled? By doing what we can to meet the buyer's time line, specification requirements, and their expectations in an ethical manner. This builds trust and when trust exists, relationships flourish.

Remember the "Paybacks Are Hell" factor. In whatever you do and in whatever you decide to do, you must always keep in mind that there will be paybacks. There are positive paybacks for positive action and negative paybacks for negative actions. If you can't handle the negative paybacks, if you can’t pay the price, then you better walk away! For what goes around always comes around!

Decision-making is like throwing a rock into a pond. No matter how big or small the rock is, when it hits the water, water is displace and a ripple effect occurs. Likewise, no matter how big or small your decision is, other people are affected and that reality must be a consideration before you make a decision.

Do you really want the sale at any cost? Do you want it at the cost of your company's integrity or your own integrity? Do you want it so bad that you would jeopardize the company’s reputation, or your reputation? Again I say, what goes around always comes around.

Always do what is best for the buyer. It will come back to you ten fold. Remember, people like to do business with people that can be trusted, make them feel good and we will give them the very best in advice, service and product!