Morality: “a set of moral principles or values.”
Selling is not perceived to be a professional vocation by many people. This belief is perpetuated by buyers who have had a bad interaction with a real estate salesperson, an obnoxious telemarketer, or an unethical or immoral car salesperson.
Yet, the profession of sales is as old as mankind. People have always bartered or “sold” things of value to one another. Yet all of us who are salespeople by profession have been treated poorly by our peers at one time or another.
Being a sales manager complicates this because your sales team is not you. They bring their own morals and business ethnics to your company based on their economic background, religious beliefs, and cultural upbringing. But as a sales manager, you must manage your sales team’s actions because their actions reflect your company directly and indirectly to your prospects.
Often, your sales team will look to you for both formal and informal clues as to your sales ethics and then they will feed off that direction.
If you have six-week “monthly” sales quotas, backdate deposit contracts, or allow unethical salespeople to operate with the rest of your sales team, then you are sending out subliminal messages to your team that sales is more important than ethics.
Aside from this being an inappropriate philosophy, it is also bad business. Prospects generally do not start business relationships until the second sale. So misrepresenting your business offering to get a quick sale or win a sales contest is not going to get you the second sale.
Your sales team looks at sales management as a role model on their expected behavior, so setting an ethical business standard is your job as much as the salesperson’s individual responsibility.
Now, you might say “why is Paul saying this, I am an ethical person.” That may be true, but your sales team is your customer-facing brand, so it is important that you communicate your ethical standards so there is no second guessing what your expectations are.
Sales ethics go beyond how your team interacts with existing customers and prospects. It also includes how your sales team communicates among themselves and other department staff.
There are two elements of ethical standards in sales that must be considered: 1) company standards and 2) individual responsibility. These two elements are the responsibility of both the management team and the salesperson.
6 Guidelines on How to Communicate and Deploy Ethical Standards to Your Sales Team
- Sales ethics cannot be an implied sales process. It must be a verbalized and demonstrated sales process. You must communicate to your sales team your expectations of what you expect and what you consider unacceptable. You must set the standard for all to be measured by. At least once a quarter, discuss sales morality, sales ethics, and internal company communication during a sales meeting.
- Develop a detailed presentation sheet to be used for product demonstrations and have prospects sign-off on on what the demonstration covered.
- Management must use a trickle-down ethical approach and demonstrate the standards they expect their sales force to adhere by. This includes not allowing 35-day months to happen during a sales contest, not accepting unauthorized freebies at the end of a contract negotiation, or allowing salespeople to be generic in their description of your firm’s product or service capabilities.
- When hiring salespeople, make them sign a business clause on ethics in their job descriptions. (Check with your corporate lawyer for recommendations on this.)
- Communicate to your sales team on a monthly basis what is expected of them with regard to selling what you have, not what they want to sell.
- Don’t always assume that a salesperson is unethical just because a customer complains. Prospects often do not know how to buy and subsequently blame their buying inadequacies on the salesperson . . . instead of accepting responsibility themselves.
Selling is an honorable and well-paid professional. But like other professions, there are times when individuals “stretch the truth” to create income for themselves or visible achievement in front of others. When this happens, this is a premeditated action of unethical behavior.
Other times, salespeople “stretch the truth” not in a premeditated process, but due to their over-abundance of enthusiasm during the sales cycle. This is still unethical behavior from the buyer’s point of view since the inaccurate comments made by the salesperson may induce the prospect to buy . . . and thus this behavior also needs to be managed as well.
In sales, relationships start after the second sale. To get to the second sale, set values that all can live by.