Ethics in Sales and Marketing: A Lost Art?

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When it comes to sales and marketing, the goal is for businesses to convince the prospect to make a purchase and become a customer. With such an objective in mind, there will always be some sort of strategic persuasion. But where does persuasion become unethical? Moving forward, ethics in sales and marketing is something that needs to be a focus for leading businesses.

The Ethical Dilemma

Ethical sales and marketing aren’t about meeting regulatory standards and falling in line with industry requirements to avoid sanctions. That’s obviously part of it, but ethics go far beyond avoiding repercussions. Ethical business is about doing the right thing, even when there’s no chance of being caught.

The problem is that businesses are so inundated with the pressure to drive, nurture, and convert leads into dollar signs that there’s often little time to worry about what’s ethical and what’s not.

“Effective selling requires more than an ability to communicate a product’s features or benefits,” CBS News explains. “Sales representatives must also develop quality relationships with their customers. Regardless of a company’s reputation, customers choose to do business with people they trust. Sales representatives have to earn that trust by behaving ethically and conveying a commitment to the customers’ needs.”

How to Make Ethical Sales and Marketing a Priority

As businesses seek to prioritize ethics in sales and marketing, it’s important that they explore each and every facet of their approach. Ethical treatment of customers must be present in every interaction in order for it to work. With that being said, here are some practical steps that can be taken.

1. Train Salespeople

Train SalespeopleThere’s a reason people hate going used car shopping. Many corner lots use questionable techniques, such as painting the car to hide blemishes, using aggressive financing tactics, and pressuring people with claims that a sale is ending prematurely. Well, if you don’t want your business to be the used car lot of your industry, salespeople must be better trained to deliver honest exchanges with customers.

Let your salespeople know that you’re more interested in developing long-term relationships with individuals than gaining a quick sale. Help them to see the value in repeat business and incentivize them more for subsequent sales.

2. Live Up to Your Word

According to sales expert David Kahle, one of the single biggest factors in ethical sales is doing what you say you’re going to do. Unfortunately, this is a little more challenging than it sounds on paper.

“One of the obvious implications of doing what you say you’re going to do is that you must not say you are going to do something that you know you can’t do. In other words, don’t over promise,” says Kahle. “That’s difficult to do when you’re in the middle of a competitive situation over a nice piece of business, and you know the competition is over promising to get the sale.”

3. Make Transparency a Habit

Today’s customers are frustrated with companies that disguise or withhold information. They want to know everything they possibly can in order to make an educated purchase decision. This means information about what materials or ingredients are used, where they came from, the processes involved in production, and everything in between.

Customers are actually seeking this information out but would prefer that it be handled over in the sales and marketing process. According to one study, 56 percent of customers say additional product information inspires more trust in the accompanying brand.

Making Ethics a Priority

It’s not always easy to choose the ethical route, but the long-term benefits of ethical sales and marketing are exponentially more rewarding than closing a cheap sale on the front end.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.