The newspaper headlines read, “Inquiry Sought into Sales Practices.”
Uh oh. Sounds guilty to me. But as is usually the case, the headline is worse than the story. Turns out that the problem stemmed from the fact that high cash incentives were offered for referrals that led to sales. Oh boy, better call out the sales police. What type of punishment should you get for that? The electric chair?
Sales incentives have been around since Eve offered an apple with the purchase of some fig leafs. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built around offering incentives for sales and referrals. Companies (like yours) are going to spend money to get customers. They either spend it on advertising or promotion.
Sales incentives are not the problem — they’re just the symptom. The problem is a real or perceived lack of personal or corporate ethics.
Ethics? Hey, it’s a dog eat dog world out there. My competition plays dirty all the time. They steal my customers, they steal my employees. Wah. Wah. Wah. Wake up. The competition can’t steal a customer or employee unless there’s something wrong or lacking with you. Instead of blaming others, why not take a close look at yourself?
First, take the five part pre-sale if-then challenge…
1. If you believe you are the best…
2. If you believe your company is the best…
3. If you believe your product is the best…
4. If you believe your service is the best…
5. If you’d feel secure in asking your grandmother to invest or buy…
Then you can recommend anyone to purchase or refer. If you failed to answer yes to the above minimum standards, you must make a plan to get to be the best, or get to a new place of business to build your career.
Second, use the 5-question acid test during the presentation…
1. Is this in the best long-term interest of the customer?
2. Is this in the best long-term interest of my company?
3. Is this in the best long-term interest of my career?
4. If I were the prospect, would I buy?
5. Is it something that would make my mother proud?
These 5 questions are at the heart of ethics in the selling process. They must be asked every time a sale is being proposed.
Third, there’s an easy way measure the results of your ethics…
- Can you sell the customer again?
- Has the customer referred you another customer — without being asked to do so?Get proof of your ethics, get better, or get out.
Here are a few philosophies and tactics that raise an ethical red flag:
Downing the competition…Don’t ever. It’s not just a no win situation, it’s an absolutely lose situation. My mother always told me that if you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing. So did yours. If you down the competition to a prospect, you may not have your facts straight, it makes you look bad, — and worse — it makes the prospect doubt you.
Pushing too hard to get the sale today…Trying to force the sale looks like you don’t want the prospect to see other options. There is a fine line between getting the prospect to avoid the competition, and using high pressure tactics. Your objective is to create an atmosphere where the customer is willing to buy — not be sold.
Obvious lack of sincerity…An insincere salesperson is like a skunk in your living room. Both are obvious.
Preaching ethics…Don’t ever say how ethical you are. Let your ethics shine through. The jails are full of televangelists and business people who preached ethics. If feel you have to prove yourself, use an example of how you performed or responded. Tell the prospect you want a long-term relationship, not just a one shot order; Don’t ever say the word ethics. When I hear the “e” word from someone in a selling situation, I avoid that person at all costs.
My experience has shown me that if you have to say what you are, you probably aren’t. Think about that for a moment. “I’m honest,” “I’m ethical,” — even “I’m the decision-maker,” “I’m the boss,” or “I’m in charge,” usually indicates just the opposite. Doesn’t it?
The challenge is for you to rededicate yourself to helping or to satisfying the needs of the customer or prospect each time you sell. Your words and actions must be in harmony with the prospect’s thoughts and perceptions in order to establish a comfort level that motivates the prospect to buy. How do you achieve it? You have to believe in it, you have to practice it, and you have to show your beliefs with deeds and ethical actions — every day.
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Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to email@example.com