It almost goes without saying that salespeople should have integrity and come from a place of truth, but why is it that we always have to spell that out? “He is a salesperson, but you can trust him” is something that I hear way too often and I always wonder why. I get it, of course. We all have encountered the salesperson who sold us a bag of goods that we didn’t want or need, but isn’t it also our responsibility to be vigilant and aware, especially today where almost everything can be researched.
Even within organizations, salespeople are often treated as the group that over-promises where other departments are then left to hold the bag.
Like in every relationship, I believe that the responsibility lies with both parties. Sales ethics reflects company culture.
Many salespeople don’t really take into consideration that once a project is sold, it actually has to be delivered by other people. “Oh yes, we can certainly do that” is a phrase that I hear salespeople often say, and once they hand it over to account management the reality sets in.
By the same token, people who don’t sell don’t really understand what it takes to be rejected on a regular basis. There is a perception that sales is a glamorous profession and all salespeople do is smile, play golf and invite prospects to meals.
In this business environment, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are the days of mostly entertaining clients definitely over, salespeople today have to bring their A game all the time, because everybody has become so much more informed due to social media and online channels.
In the old days, a prospect had to believe a salesperson and their narrative and it was hard to prove that they were positioning their service in a brighter light. Today, all a person needs to do is go online, do some research and boom, there is a lot of information available that can be thrown at a salesperson in real-time.
So, not only do salespeople in today’s business environment have to be quicker on their feet, they also have to understand social media, they need to be good writers because so much communication takes place via email or through online channels, and they also have to be diligent and really well educated on their offering vs. the competition.
It’s almost impossible to be unethical, and while that is a really good development, it’s not really appreciated. Salespeople are still treated like a group of professionals who sell door-to-door where personality overshadows all other aspects of their business acumen.
Ethics are important in business, bar none. Sales professionals are no exception. I do feel however that salespeople are often held to a higher standard, simply because they are in sales. What about the product groups who over-promise and underdeliver? It’s not all that uncommon that a product is pushed to salespeople without it being ready. Then the salesperson has to do some explaining to their prospect as to why certain functionality is not yet working.
Maybe if we start treating salespeople like equal professionals—whether we are a peer, a colleague, a prospect or a client—they will become even more ethical than they are already. In closing, the fish always starts stinking from the top.
If an organization holds all of their employees to higher standards, every single employee will have to adhere to it. If some departments are allowed to stretch the truth a bit, it will trickle down to sales because in the end, salespeople are your first contact to the outside world.
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