For the final article in the sales ethics series, we’ll cover the most practical aspect of sales ethics: characteristics.

Character Basics

An ebook I wrote previously, Who Are You? The Critical Role of Character in a New Era of Sales takes up this subject in detail. I highly recommend you read it. This article will cover some of its essential points.

The book is structured primarily around an ancient proverb, one which I believe was contained in Mishnah, an Jewish verbal tradition:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.

Watch your words, for they become actions.

Watch your actions, for they become habits.

Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

Because one’s character becomes destiny, the vital importance of character traits becomes clear. They bring wisdom to all aspects of life.

Wisdom in Actions

There is another proverb that comes out of the New Testament book of Colossians:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

You might notice that this proverb has particular applicability in sales, just based on the line, “Make the most of every opportunity.” These words sum up a typical sales call, don’t they? A salesperson should always do something with every opportunity that comes their way.

The next line states, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” This could be translated to a salesperson not only possessing an answer but also being skilled in answering most of a prospect’s questions. When a prospect asks you an important question, it is critical that you know the answer but it is equally important to know how to deliver that answer.

Communicating this way should be done both inside and outside of one’s organizationOrganization Organization is a cohesive group of people working together and formally bound by a shared identity (e.g., one team, company, club, etc.) and a common purpose (e.g., business growth, athletic victory, etc.).. This is what salespeople do—they communicate. They usually first talk about themselves, then their company, and finally, the productProduct Product refers to anything (an idea, item, service, process or information) that meets a need or a desire and is offered to a market, usually but not always at a price. or service they deliver.

A Salesperson Must Believe in Product and Company

It can happen that a salesperson isn’t completely believing in the products they sell or in the company that employs them. What such a salesperson doesn’t quite realize is that when they are attempting to sell something they don’t believe in, prospects can always tell.

If belief doesn’t back up what you are doing, it is counterproductive and you should simply stop. You will also find it extremely difficult. While you may be able to perform the job to some degree, you will never truly be successful.

Sales is much more tied to a person’s character than other roles within a company. A salesperson cannot just separate the part of them that is conducting the sale, and be convincing through body language and all other aspects of communication when they don’t believe in what they’re doing. That “part” is connected to the whole person, and it won’t work.

Salesperson success only comes about from being an evangelist in selling a product or service. If you cannot successfully evangelize, you will never succeed. People will only ever view your words and actions as authentic when you can successfully evangelize.

There is a marked distinction between the role of a salesperson and that of any other employee in a company: only a salesperson goes and attempts to persuade another person that their offering is better than their competitors. Therefore, their words and actions are inextricably tied to their character.

Defining Who You Are

Once you have taken on successful salesperson character traits, you’ll find that people like you and want to know you. They want to hang out with you. They don’t see you as just trying to sell them something—they see you as a friend or a confidante helping them solve an issue.

A salesperson living through these traits exemplifies the precise opposite of the pushy, selfish “salespeople” dramatized in films such as Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross.

More Essential Characteristics

In that manifesting these traits results in someone actually wanting to be your friend, you’ll notice that another very important trait is kindness. If you’re not kind to others, they certainly won’t want to hang out with you. Nobody wants to build a relationship with someone who is arrogant and not particularly friendly.

We can then add humility as another vital characteristic. Being humble, in its proper sense, does not mean being meek; but it is, however, the opposite of arrogance. Successful salespeople are humble and genuinely wish to help others.

Patience is another characteristic. You must exercise self-control and be willing to wait. If you are always impatient and “running over people,” you’ll never sell well.

We all must have the capacity to learn—about our company, products and services, and most importantly our customers. Therefore being teachable becomes another crucial salesperson characteristic.

We find at the very core of these characteristics the most important of them: integrity. What you say must be true and you must communicate that truth clearly. Integrity means being loyal—to your customers, to your company, and to your colleagues. All characteristics are built upon a foundation of integrity.

Trust in Leadership

You’ll find that these character traits all combine into leadership. It may not be leading a group as that is not everyone’s calling—but if you can learn to leadLead Lead refers to a prospect or potential customer (who can be an individual or organization) that exhibits interest in your service or product; or any additional information about such entity. yourself, you become a role model for others to aspire to.

A real sense of ethics is created through these characteristics. A person with them knows what is true and not true, what is right and wrong, what is noble and what is ignoble, what is arrogant and what demonstrates humility, and what it means to be loyal or disloyal.

We can trust one who possesses these characteristics—and in these uncertain times, trust is something we truly need. The more chaos surrounds us, the more we seek out strong, loyal people we can trust.

In maritime tradition, we find that a ship’s captain is the last to leave a ship that is sinking and in distress. In fact, the captain will go down with the ship, taking the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the crew and passengers. There are stories of captains who did not behave this way, and in such a case, the captain could hardly be called a leader. How could they possibly be trusted?

A real salesperson must possess this same trait. As I said earlier, in taking advantage of an opportunity, a salesperson must have the right answers for the prospect. But beyond that, the salesperson should also strive for excellence in everything they do so that others can admire and trust them.

The Path to Winning

It can be seen that successful salespeople who win deals behave with these traits. They always try to make the most of every opportunity, and in doing so orient their conversation to help a prospect also win. They do this because, first of all, one often meets someone twice in life, and second, they are not just being opportunistic but quite the opposite, they are building a relationship of mutual respect.

Acquiring Characteristics

Given the importance of these traits, the obvious question becomes: how might you acquire them?

The first line of the ancient proverb quoted in my ebook Who Are You? states: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.” We can, therefore, see that everything begins with what we are thinking.

Many people are constantly thinking negative thoughts about themselves. Going back to our last article, and back to my book, negative thoughts often circle our minds like croaking ravens. We don’t, however, need to allow them to land and nest.

The two exercises I will now provide can greatly help in reversing a negative mindset. The change doesn’t happen overnight, but a mindset can be trained if these exercises are utilized over time.

Exercise One

The loss of a negative attitude is central to a mindset change. The example we’ll use for these exercises is the feeling of “I cannot make it,” which is a frequent self-critical attitude. The salesperson doesn’t feel confident that they can face prospects, which stirs up many emotions.

While we focus on the “I cannot make it” example, any negative attitude or self-talk could be addressed with these exercises.

Grab a paper and pen or open a computer document. For the first exercise, ask yourself, “What will I lose if I let go of the attitude, ‘I cannot make it?’” Answers will probably immediately appear fear, anger, rage, self-hate, frustration, stress, lack of energy, and many others. These are some of the feelings you might lose if you let go of that negative attitude, but you will find your own.

Exercise Two

The more important of these two exercises is the second, in which you ask yourself, “What will I win if I let go of this attitude?” You might win trust in yourself, willpower, energy, self-respect, and commitment. Again, you’ll have your own answers to this question.

You have begun a mindset change the very moment you have started these exercises. You must do them regularly because it is a mindset-building process that requires repetition. In time you will cease indulging in a mindset of what you cannot do or what can’t be done. A negative attitude can be replaced with a positive one—you have this innate power within you.

“Watch Your Thoughts”

The assistance of a salesperson in reversing negative thoughts is the entire point of these exercises. While a salesperson should always remain healthy, which involves physical exercise, watching what they think is equally important. Thoughts become words, and those words are what the salesperson uses to communicate with customers.

In the final analysis, your character evolves into your destiny. Therefore, character traits are both critical and indeed foundational to the entire subject of sales ethics.