What are your company’s sales ethics?
Of course, when we typically think about the ethics of our companies, we think of our values, mission statement, HR, accounting and even production. Shareholders, the board and management establish the values, HR communicates those values to the staff, marketing communicates them to customers and of course, customers experience our values and ethics directly in the quality of our products and services.
Sure, your sales people may be trained to talk about your company’s values and the quality of your services in discussions with customers but, most of us leave a HUGE loophole for ethical missteps by sales people and therefore your company.
That loophole is the gulf that can exist between customer expectations and the actual product/service you provide.
In every conversation with a customer, sales people hear questions that demand detailed explanation. But, for many reasons, that detailed explanation is not always forthcoming.
Don’t get me wrong… often in a presentation to a group of potential customers, the questions and answers are flying around faster than anyone can truly keep track of. And so, its inevitable that some customers will get unrealistic expectations about things both trivial and consequential.
Experienced sales people know the difference between the details and the important issues. Your sales team is truly representing the ethics of your company when they are trained and required to address those consequential issues thoroughly so there are no misunderstandings. If your sales team is free to keep on moving through their presentation when those issues come up, you’re guilty of unethical behavior, at least by omission, if not by commission.
Think of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. As the scandal unfolded, management first claimed the software modifications that allowed vehicles to falsely beat emissions tests where implemented by a few rogue software engineers without the knowledge of anyone in leadership. Of course, it later came out that upper management was well aware of what was being done.
VW management was pretending ignorance.
Now, you know how customers can get misled or misunderstand what to expect in a product like yours. It’s all very innocent. No salesperson is required to actually tell a lie. All they have to do is let the customer assume things that your customers often assume.
And that is your sales person and your company pretending ignorance.
Sorry to lay this burden at your feet but, it’s as clear as day once you consider the implications for your customers of making common assumptions about features, service response times, refund policies, etc.
Sales Ethics is the Road Less Traveled
The good news is that taking the high road is the road less traveled.
Train your sales team to listen for the comments and questions from customers that indicate they may be making a false assumption about what their experience of your products, services and your company will be.
Train the sales team to stop the conversation boldly when these issues come up and arm them with clarifying statements, slides, demonstrations, specs and articles.
Sales Ethics Example
“I’m sorry Mr. Jones, I need to stop us here. I heard someone on your team ask if the XJ9000 has this or that feature. I want to be sure I address that because frankly, it’s one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of our product. It’s my job to help you find a solution that fits you best and I want to be sure you’re as clear as possible about what to expect. Honestly, I’ve worked with a lot of companies like yours that have worked with our competitors and it’s pretty common that they’ve had a bad experience due to a misunderstanding about seemingly small details like this. I don’t want that to happen to you. So, let me explain how that really works…..”
Another good technique is to create a checklist in your CRM solution that’s easy for the salesperson to checkoff as they address each common misconception, etc. And, your marketing automation system can educate customers with easy to create content like “5 Common Surprises Your Product Buyers Don’t Like”.
Sales people are the ethical standard bearers of your company. Obviously, if they lie or are unprofessional, it reflects poorly on your company. Also, if they leave the opportunity for misconceptions, misunderstandings or false expectations to exist, they are leaving the door wide open to the same impression being created.