It’s true that, in any field, ethics are important. In a sport, we want to know if someone is cheating. In a treatise or scholarly paper, we want to know that the contentContentContent refers to a material or document released in various forms (such as text, image, audio, and video) and created to inform, engage or influence specific audiences. is original and not plagiarized. In sales, ethics is equally as important.
What makes this topic so important? When a sense of morality and ethics begins eroding in a society, people start to feel pressure to walk away from principles. These are undoubtedly confusing times, and such pressure certainly exists today.
Sales and Business Ethics
Because of these times, businesses require some kind of moral compass. We know from renowned consultant, educator and author Peter Drucker that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Simply having a written strategy for something won’t cut it—someone actively must leadLeadLead 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. the way, and that’s the only way people will follow.
Thanks to the corrupted reputation given the field by films, fiction and playsPlaysPlays is an engagement strategy, set of actions, series of tactical steps, or an agreed upon selling approach developed to be repeatable and customized to deliver the highest likelihood of closing a deal with a specific group of prospective customers during a set period., sales presents another level of ethics problems. Salespeople are seen as dishonest and “only in it for themselves,” so even honest salespeople are viewed as dishonest.
Without a moral compass that we can rely upon, the longer term raises the question of where the line is drawn. A lack of ethics in sales, as it does in business, opens the door for virtually any kind of conduct. Through the years, we’ve seen scandals attached to immoral sales practices, such as Ponzi schemes and the recent scandal with FTX, in which Sam Bankman-Fried sold cryptocurrency not backed by enough reserves to meet customerCustomerCustomer is an individual or an organization that purchases a product or signs up for a service offered by a business. demand.
Scandals and reputations such as these not only damage trust in one particular industry, but in the entire system. If the moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction, and people are no longer following clear principles, then all the compliance regulations in the world won’t correct it.
People can then rationalize, “Hey, I didn’t cross the line by all that much. I invited the person to dinner and told him, ‘If we can have this deal, you’ll have a beautiful trip to Europe and I’ll pay the airfare.’”
A year ago Pipeliner created the slogan “Win Together.” If we had followed the above trend and used this slogan in betrayal of customers, disaster would have resulted.
Examples At the Top
The example seen at the top—in our government—is unfortunately lacking any shame or regret. They’re corrupt. This definitely influences society because people point to it and say, “If they’re doing that, why should I be honest?”
We see this kind of conduct by politicians every day, right in our view. In the 1980s, when the economy was doing so well, people didn’t examine politicians so closely. But today, politics have become very important, and people are watching closely. We see powerful lobbyists influencing the decision-making process, and hear that a politician can be bought for $10,000.
Are larger companies buying their customers in the same way? Sure they are. It is ruining a free economy and spells the beginning of the end.
Protection and Regulations
Clearly, we are in dire need of regulations mapping clear intent for competition in business.
The consumer also needs protection. In America, where the middle class depends on midsize businesses, larger businesses are grabbing up the smaller ones and becoming monopolies. When they become monopolies, they can make their own rules, which are not based on fair competition. It’s a matter of “they’re little and they don’t matter.” In the long run, this practice will ruin the consumer’s trust. When the consumer can no longer trust in business, or even in the dollar, we have a very hurtful situation.
Let’s Face Reality
There is a great deal of naivety and neglect of the true reality. If we are ever to change anything, we must face this reality and think it through—otherwise we are betraying ourselves. We cannot be ignorant of this vital topic because it is superior to our worldwide sales force, as sales will never become reliable and trustworthy. With unreliable sales forces, every productProductProduct 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. being sold will carry doubt about its value and price.
Many other problems are introduced through widespread doubt. People rationalize, “If they lie, we can, too.” Laws become violated, and soon there are lawsuits, even over nothing at all. The consequences are endless, much like an avalanche that begins small and gathers more and more force as it comes down the mountainside. This is what is happening today.
Arrowhead Water, a company that has made billions from bottling and marketingMarketingMarketing is the field, set of actions, or practice of making a product or service desirable to a target consumer segment, with the ultimate aim of effecting a purchase. mountain spring water, was recently ordered to cease and desist from piping water from National forest lands. They were operating on a permit that expired in 1988, and despite numerous complaints from environmental and other groups, had simply carried on until ordered by the State of California to stop.
In medicine, there have been many other examples. Back in the 1950s, we were told that mothers absolutely had to take Contergan (thalidomide), which then resulted in birth defects of these mothers’ babies. We’ve recently seen that Pfizer released its COVID vaccine without proper research, yet it was made mandatory that the public had to take it.
We Need True Ethics
Today, honest ethics are needed more than ever. The question is, how will these ethics be rooted? We’ll take up this topic as this series of articles progresses.
Consumers lack the necessary facts, numbers and insight to perform correct analysis. Cases like that of Arrowhead Water need to be found through investigative journalists, and trustworthy investigative journalism seems to be in short supply today. Fraud appears to have become increasingly acceptable.
This series of articles is not intended to provide an idealistic, moral philosophy, but instead a moral guidance for sales ethics.
Follow along with me and let’s discover how this vital issue might be solved.