Being a sales professional is not the most difficult job in the world and certainly not the easiest. There is at least a professional code of ethics for every job. For some reason though, sales professionals have to face difficult business settings and deal with several people and ideas. These make it even more difficult for them to operate within the confines and guidelines of the job’s code of conduct.
They have to operate as business men and at the same time deal with a marketing perspective. So the business code of ethics stretches beyond the sales professional’s normal confines. Consequently, those in this profession have to go about their jobs considering marketing ethics in particular and business code of ethics in general.
The sales professional is frequently under pressure to deliver results for business deals which might demand that he breaks almost every known professional code of ethics. Decision making is not the easiest thing in the world when faced with such situations. As a matter of fact, clients will usually present some extremely tempting deals that will only be sealed on the condition that you make one or two simple changes to the normal routine. But to you those changes are not “simple”, they touch on the very core of your professional integrity and put you at risk of losing the job.
Let’s revisit some professional code of ethics, look at how they apply in the challenging business milieu and how one can stand their ground when the temptation to give in to pressure seems to be winning the day.
One code of conduct for the Association of Professional Sales is to promote and protect good sales practices. Now the unavoidable question arises. What are good sales practices? The first thing is to commit oneself to continues development so as to ensure that you are constantly getting better at closing deals ethically and professionally. To be committed to doing the right thing in order to get the right results. This builds trust worthiness which is very important for sales business code of ethics.
Sales professionals frequently have to be engaged in managing company funds which is handed to them for specific purposes. So they also have to be discrete in financial matters and do their best to make sure that expenses are not mismanaged. When business contract agreements are made, you have to go the extra mile to ensure that the terms of the agreement are followed and especially that you do not breech your end of the deal.
Market prices are usually very unstable and sometimes you may realize as a sales representative that the deal you struck a week ago and which you have to execute now is no longer going to work to your advantage. Those are the things that put your trustworthiness to the test. In such situations, never seek to back out from agreements already made or breach your end of the deal. Sometimes, you have to make a few sacrifices in terms of losses to launch into bigger deals.
Trust worthiness will also entail that you responsibly manage business relationships and take precautions to appropriately handle unethical practices as well as reporting them when necessary. In all, trust worthiness is one of those things within the scope or subject of professional business ethics which sales professionals have to frequently remind themselves about.
Accountability is another important part of the sales professional’s business ethics. Because a great deal of resources are often entrusted to your care for various purposes, you have to be accountable and responsible for those resources. A good example is travelling and lodging allowances which are sometimes used for other purposes.
Establishing a good reputations and Credibility
As a sales professional, whether you are into sales management or a sales representative, establishing a good reputation and showing credibility is vital to upholding business code of ethics. There are little things that should be done to build a good reputation.
One of those things that build reputation is keeping to time. Time is precious for every serious person and showing up late for meetings or missing appointments with clients shows how unserious and undependable you are. Soon enough, you may begin to loose clients and deals.
Dress for the occasion. As a sales professional, you represent a company or at least a product. The perception people have of you determines to a large extent how they look at your product or their attitude to your service. When you go out on business trips, make sure you dress to portray yourself as a professional from a first impression. And talking about first impression, that matters a lot. It can either help you close a deal or lose one.
Next, watch your talk. It is important that while on the job, you purpose to refrain from using unclear words or phrases that may appear ambiguous to your colleagues and clients. Be as clear as you can. This ensures that you don’t seem to be intentionally or unintentionally misleading clients. Use language that relates to your job. It makes you sound professional and builds your reputation. On the other hand, whenever you are dealing with someone who is not familiar with those terms, be sure to clarify them.
Ethical behavior at work
While you put in your best to have excellent results at your job and uphold marketing ethics, you need to remember some ethical habits which if seriously practiced will definitely improve performance and help you achieve more with less effort and maybe in a shorter period of time.
- Respect; Show respect for your colleagues and even subordinates. Those who work with you should always feel honored by the way you treat or relate with them. More important, be submissive and respect your superiors. Never give anyone superior to you the impression that you are not comfortable or find it difficult giving them the respect they deserve and which their position demands.
- Timeliness; Aside from coming early to work and appointments, be sure to meet work deadlines. Do your part and make all necessary efforts to ensure that those under you put in their best to meet deadlines.
- Privacy; Whether you are on or off the job, make sure you respect the privacy of other workers. Refrain from discussing or gossiping their private affair with other colleagues. In case some trust you with pertinent information about themselves, keep things confidential while your try to help them. This also helps them trust you even more. As a sales professional, this is even more important because your relationship with people within and out of the company is largely built on confidentiality.
No Deceptive selling tactics
Sometimes when the heat is on and you need to meet target, it is tempting to fall back to deceptive trade tactics to meet up. Actually that is the very thing you should not do. There are several ways to deceive clients, dealers, some of which are not punishable by law but have the potential of negatively affecting your relationships with people.
Don’t bluff about your product or services. It is enough to simply state the facts. But when you go out of your way to give more credit to your goods or services than you can actually deliver, your clients and customers will figure it out sooner or later. If they do figure out the deceptive strategy before they fall for it, i think that will be better for you. But if they do fall for it, you leave them feeling like they have been dubbed and no one likes that feeling. It is a simple way to lose customers and hurt sales records.
Secondly don’t omit vital information. If there is any fact closely tied to your goods or services that may negatively affect the business, deal with it or else let the public know. If you are a professional sales representative for a company producing malaria drugs and there are certain side effects of the drugs for some group of people, be sure to make that information clear before you make any sales.
At other times the trick is to advertise goods with no intention of selling them as advertised or intentionally limiting stock so that there can be an increase in prices because demand will be more than supply.
Delivering on your promise
Sales professionals make a lot of promises to many people. Their job is to close as many sales as possible and sometimes it is not easy to keep to promises. Promises too are made based on different issues. A promise to deliver at a certain time, or a certain quantity and at a particular price. Delivering on time for example is not always as easy as it sounds. You have to follow up to make sure orders that have been placed are delivered on time. That entails, in case they have to be shipped, making preparations and packaging way ahead of time so that your clients receive their goods on time.
Not delivering on time or not taking adequate measures to ensure that the goods take just the appropriate time to reach the buyer could lead to even further complications for you. If those goods are perishables, you may have to refund or resend because of poor planning.
Then there are times when the quantity and (or) quality you promised to deliver is just not available at the time when you are to make the delivery. Maybe you accepted to supply more than the company had in stock at the time. Do what you can to ensure that you live up to your promises but if disappointing your client or customer is inevitable, at least let them know way ahead of time or as soon as you realize you cannot deliver as promised.
The ethicality of delivering as promised has a great role to play with your colleagues, or superiors at work. It is deemed unethical to be noticed for perpetual failure to deliver on promise. It could be a task you had to complete or some paper work you had to submit to another colleague, whatever it is, as long as it has a handle on the entire team’s progress, make sure you deliver timely and as promised.
Dealing with Cultural differences
Cultural difference is one of those subjects that poses a really serious challenge for sales professionals. Like some other jobs and as already stated, they have to meet different people with cultural identities that are way different from theirs. Knowing how to deal with these ethical differences has the potential of either making you more or less successful as a sales professional.
The very foundation of every code of conduct is based on general perceptions of what is right or wrong in particular settings, in this case sales professionalism. But as a sales professional, you have to meet people from different countries and backgrounds and what may appear ethical to you or may apply in your country could be way out of place to someone from another place. You cannot always assume that the ethical values you uphold are ideal, hence there is a need to sometimes make changes and compromises That said, let us look at some of the issues that arise as a result of cultural differences and how you can ethically deal with them.
Ask questions Before you kick off with a business deal or while you are getting familiar with a client, try to ask questions that will help you understand what ethical values they hold and what they mean to them. Generally, there is an internationally accepted code of conduct for each profession but even those that seem to be well spelt out could have different interpretations and mean something slightly different for people with different backgrounds. Some cultural settings for example will allow people voice their opinions freely at their jobs while other cultures are not open to the idea. Know what works in different settings and what doesn’t by asking pertinent questions wisely.
Aim for balance and flexibility
There is a need to uphold your company’s sales policies but whenever attaining those policies could be hindered by cultural differences it is not a bad idea to be somewhat flexible. Sometimes it is wise to be flexible, let go of some of your own perceptions in order to contain those whose cultural views and perceptions are a bit different from yours. There is still a way you can do all that and not lose yourself or let down your company policy. Being flexible in any business setting has to be done with responsibility.
It will be a great idea for us to look into the sales professional’s business ethics in more specific ways to help you understand the underlying framework. So let’s clearly state the business professional’s ethics and explain what they mean or imply in an actual working scenario.
- 1. To always work for the best interest of your prospects and customers
Business could feel like a game sometimes where the only thing going through your mind is winning. But it actually should not be so. To keep long lasting relationships in business or turn one time buyers to lifetime customers, you need to have the “win-win” mentality as your norm. In as much as you want to get the very best out of every business deal, do well to look out for your client’s interest. You can even go a step forward to ask them if there is anything you can do to make things more beneficial to them.
- 2. To always fulfil obligations to prospects, clients and company
These constitute the people you deal with on a daily basis. There are specific expectations they have of you and meeting these expectations is vital to your progress in the job. Prospects (those who are likely to link in with you for business deals) will normally be interested in your reputation and believe me, many of them are willing to go the extra mile to find out what king of sales professional you are and how pleased others have been with your goods or services. As far as these group of people are concerned, it will be to the best of your interest to hold on to the professional code of ethics if you ever want them to join your train.
- 3. Remain loyal to prospects and clients and never use what you learn from them to the advantage of their competitors.
When you deal with customers and other companies or businesses for a while and do so ethically and respectfully, some of them begin to feel free giving you pertinent information about their businesses. At other times it is just an unavoidable part of the sales process that you get such information. However, you must be really careful to never let that information slip out to their competitors. Don’t even try to do it as a game. Be committed to keeping such information secret. This also goes a long way to build trust between your company and your client.
- 4. Be respectful of your profession, your products, services and company
As a sales professional, your job is not just making sales. You must look at yourself as an ambassador to your company, your products or services and your profession as a whole. That means be determined to represent the best perception possible. Never talk low on your products or services for any reason, whether on or off the job. Whenever you have a chance to represent your company, product or services, endeavor to speak as positive as possible about them, no matter how small the occasion may be.
- 5. Be sure to always perform your duties in a professional manner
Literally all what we have been discussing boils down to being professional. So this point is quite simple. Do what is expected of you and refrain from practices that may either be offensive to colleagues, clients, or likely to stain your reputation and by extension the occupation as a whole.
All these sound like a lot of responsibility. Why go through all the trouble of upholding marketing ethics or sales professional code of ethics? If you are looking too much at what you stand to gain by neglecting the code of conduct, you will hardly muster the courage to stand by what you believe when the situation is tempting. So let’s look at what you stand to gain by upholding the business code of ethics.
Benefits of Upholding Sales Professional’s Business Ethics
1.Consumers have a high tendency of trusting ethical brands or companies and will most likely remain loyal to you and your company for this single reason.
2. It is easier to close deals faster when you work within ethical confinements. This will always spare you the embarrassment which may result from faulty practices and time or resources which may have to be wasted in order to make amends.
3. There is bound to be increased sales when more customers get to trust your brand or company. One time buyers very easily become lifetime customers when they realize through the ethical values you uphold that you are not just in to make as much money out of them as you can but are actually looking out for their interest and satisfaction.
4. I think the most interesting is this; you get free recommendation and publicity from satisfied customers or clients and usually those are the most convincing of all. When a person recommends a product or service out of their satisfaction with it, it is much more convincing and likely to convert loyal customers from competing brands or companies to yours.
5. Finally, I should say there is nothing like that feeling you get for doing the right thing even while under pressure. Whether you get to seal the deal or not, you will be better prepared to hold on to the values of your profession when you meet and face every challenge with honesty and integrity bearing in mind the various marketing ethics.
It is a complex world we live in and sacrifices have to be made so very often. Sales professionals have their fair share of it all. Always bear in mind that upholding marketing ethics as a sales professional is not just about you. You carry on your soldiers the responsibility of honorably representing your colleagues and defending the profession wherever you are.