1. Do other people stand to gain from your sales tactics and actions?
  2. Do your sales tactics and actions have a positive influence on your own and others’ well-being and self-esteem?
  3. Do your sales tactics and actions move you and your customer closer to your respective short- and long-term goals?
  4. Would most people approve of how you prospect for new business and sell?

If each of us can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, then it would appear that our sales and prospecting efforts are underpinned by sound ethics and behaviours and set up to deliver a fair exchange of value for both buyer and seller.

If you are unsure, then test out your ‘ethical, fair exchange of value’ proposition by asking those who know you well to give you honest feedback about your sales and prospecting tactics and actions in relation to these 4 questions. If you get agreement that your activities are ethical and fair then continue to use them. If not, you will need to rethink how you are selling and prospecting if you want to forge honourable long term relationships and have buyers return.

It’s a pity that those on parade at the Australian Banking Royal Commission have not put themselves to the same test.

Story after story is revealing that something is very wrong with the corporate cultures, principles, ethics and moral standards at these, and other organisations being exposed outside the BRC. Those organisations who think it is OK to run unethical, hyper-competitive win-at-all-costs sales cultures whose sole aim is to rip people off (mostly customers and sometimes staff) and be paid handsomely for it.

Something is very wrong with those boards and senior leaders who have convinced so many people to do the wrong thing and condone this as Business As Usual.

Something is very wrong with ASIC and APRA that they let this happen on their watch for so long and did nothing to stop it. Maybe ASIC and APRA need to be brought in front of the BRC and account for their lack of intervention.

I am sure there are plenty of good people who have been caught up in this drama and were not sure what to do about it. It is now being reported that many people in these banks and financial institutions are seeking counselling due to heightened levels of distress and anxiety. We know why but why didn’t they just say ‘NO” or do something to stop this?

I cannot speak for people in general, but we do know that many people in these situations fear losing their jobs, think they are powerless to do anything about it, think they have no other options and so stay quiet and comply. Fewer take advantage of the opportunity and take the money while they can without fear or favour.

As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Let me reassure you, good salespeople and good organisations can do something.

As an individual…

You can make a stand and be prepared to do the right thing. Alert management to better sales strategies and practices. Model ethical sales behaviours and practices yourself and don’t get drawn into the trap of unethical practices. Keep track of your ethical sales activities and results and demonstrate how you can sell better without ripping people off then ask to be paid fairly for good results.

If that doesn’t work then you can leave and get a new job. There are plenty of good businesses looking for ethical and effective salespeople they can trust to do the right thing by their clients and their companies.

As an organisation…

There is plenty written about how to lead and run effective customer centric sales operations. Here are 3 core things CEOs and Sales Leaders can do now:

  1. Design, implement and execute effective sales strategies that deliver real value and sustainable competitive advantage;
  2. Build a business culture and reputation of trust, engagement, commitment and high performance with employees, clients and suppliers; and
  3. Build in sales systems, develop sales mastery, and minimise sales execution and operational risk to deliver consistent and sustainable revenue and growth.

Our intentions…

However, despite all of these options, it is our intentions that are the difference between leading an ethical business, an ethical team, an ethical sales career, an ethical life or not.

The banking and finance senior executives and their boards plus those other corporate leaders who are falling foul of this new transparency need to own up to the damage they have created. It is their intentions that have led to this situation. They did not stand by and do nothing about these dreadful outcomes. Instead, they endorsed it, encouraged it, condoned it, even though they knew it was wrong. This is what is so disturbing about this whole fiasco. The unethical, win-at-all-costs behaviour is evidenced at the most senior levels and runs deeper into these organisations. The knock-on effect of this unethical bad behaviour has invoked “reputational risk” where losses far exceed typical credit, FX, interest rate, operating risks, etc. The costs of doing business this way far outstrip the costs of doing good and honourable business. It’s madness on every level.

Despite their calls of more compliance, the root cause of this mess is behavioural, not compliance or rules based.

Perhaps these leaders need be reminded of Peter Drucker’s salient words in his book, The Age of Discontinuity, published in 1966 that:  “The purpose of business is not to make profit but to satisfy the needs and expectations of customers. The consequence of satisfied customers is incremental profit …” They also need to be reminded of what Peter Drucker thought should be the “first responsibility” of management (and any professional for that matter): Above all, do no harm. This is too, not by coincidence, one of the principles of our Selling Better Manifesto.

For too long, many businesses have ignored the advice of Peter Drucker and focused on profit only, looking at customers as numbers, a means to an end for profit which is now coming back to bite them.

That is why we offered these 4 simple questions to test if your sales and prospecting tactics are ethical or not. It’s a start. These questions take up very little space yet can help guide us on our journey.

Watch out for next week’s piece on the 5 Critical Sales Success Factors to Selling Better and how to get harmony and alignment that lead to better sales behaviours and results.   

Remember everybody lives by selling something.


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