A recent edition of Sales & Marketing Management Magazine included a special article focusing on sales ethics. Call me naive, but my knee jerk reaction was, “Does this topic warrant a great deal of ink in this day and age?” The unfortunate answer is an unqualified “Yes, it does!”
Here are six headings from the article along with my personal remarks:
- 49% of surveyed managers say their reps have lied on a sales call. A popular misconception underlies many sales campaigns: To be effective at selling, you must be less than honest and/or be skilled in thp e art of deception.
Call me old fashioned, but I was taught, and still believe, that passing along information to others that you know to be false is not cool — and not conducive to career success. Yet, for reasons probably stemming from too much sugar in their coffee, some salespeople believe that everybody but themselves are idiots. In fact, most people are pretty street-smart and can tell when you are slinging shovels of blarney. The day such salespeople get caught, and they do ultimately get caught, is one of the most costly, embarrassing, and painful days of their lives.
- 34% of managers say they have heard reps make unrealistic promises. You are probably aware of the practice of “raising the bar” . . . the notion that it is both healthy and desirable to stretch beyond one’s current comfort zone to improve individual performance — or, in the case of sales, customer service. I recognize this practice . . . and in fact, I endorse raising the bar. But, the operative word here is realistic. You must be realistic. Not only will you enjoy living with yourself more, but those in your immediate environment will appreciate the fact.
- 22% say their reps have sold products their customers didn’t need. Whoa!!! Sometimes people don’t want (or realize they need) what you know as the product specialist is in their best interest. For example, I don’t particularly want to buy more life insurance, thereby betting on my own demise. But you, as the insurance specialist and knowing my personal situation, might recognize that I am dangerously under insured. You are doing me and my family a favor upgrading my coverage. The key here involves determining what is right for the prospect. Don’t risk being labeled dishonest. It’s usually a bad career move. (Ask Nixon or Clinton.)
• 30% say customers have demanded a kickback for buying a product or service. This one can get me in some hot water so, please, read my words very
carefully. If someone requests a favor from me, I would consider one of two responses.
- I would take a declarative stance and offer to deliver what was asked for to the person’s boss or supervisor. As long as our “arrangement” was visible for everyone to see and interpret, and the small favor was not the reason for the purchase, I might agree to the request.
- My second option would be to thank the person for their time, and move on to my next sales opportunity.
- If I provide you with a “finder’s fee” or a “thank you” gift, I would like it to be my idea. When confronted with anything that remotely sounds like a kickback, #2 would get the nod 99.99 times out of a hundred.
- 54% say the drive to meet sales goals does a disservice to customers. I’m surprised this percentage is not higher given the hurry-up, get-in, get-out business environment we operate in much of the time.
I remember an instance at the famous Boston Fish Market one Sunday morning when I heard a fellow hawking his daily catch from a wooden wagon. He kept hollering, “How many . . . what else . . . whose next?” as he adroitly wrapped a customer’s purchase in waxed paper. He would shout this three-part question over and over again every few seconds. There was no attempt to bond with his customers. No sincerity. No attempt to establish a relationship with anybody. Here was a perfect example of a guy flogging his wares while racing against the clock.
I suppose if your product rots with each minute the sun climbs, this would be acceptable behavior. In the world of business as I know it (devoid of rotting catch or produce) this example of commerce falls short of my idea of what a client-seller relationship should look and sound like.
While I believe salespeople have more going for them than the above statistics indicate, I have found that due to easy entry and poor training the sales community does have these problems.
Sadly, a few salespeople know the difference between right and wrong, yet conscientiously practice the art of deception. They brag about it. They make jokes about it. They actually take pride in allegedly “out-foxing” the prospect. My suggestion: Steer clear of these types.
Dogs Have The Gift
If you ask people if they believe if dogs can detect fear in humans, virtually everyone nods in agreement. Dogs can sense when humans are frightened — maybe it’s the scent. The dog takes a “read” on you each time you approach . . . and so do people. The human corollary is that most people have the ability to sense when people are being less than honest. This power is multiplied by ten when a salesperson enters the room.
People intuitively know when a salesperson is full of baloney.
The odds of fooling anyone today are about the same as . . . well, Presidential Impeachment! (We are two for six in the last few decades.) Younger sales wannabes need to understand this lesson fast. Seasoned professionals who think their gift of gab has gotten them where they are today, need to consider which Hawaiian Island they would now be retired on if they had simply shot from the hip for the past twenty years. People can sense when you don’t believe in your company. People can sense when you don’t believe in your service. People can sense when you don’t believe in yourself.
Transmit positive vibes, be relaxed with yourself and your environment, believe in your company, your service, and yourself, and you will exude confidence and attract all the potential buyers you will be able to service.
As for the highly touted salesman’s “gift of gab,” let me suggest you follow an old New Jersey proverb:
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