Most of the people I meet in business want to do the right thing. They want to be trusted, to earn respect, to do a great job for their business and their customers. As I travel and work around the world I meet brilliant technicians and professionals who are passionate about their work, who often change the world for the better by what they do. I meet salespeople who are passionate about helping their customers and who enjoy finding the right solution for them.
Intellectually every business person knows that products and services have to be sold, customers have to be found. Selling is really no more than exchanging a product or service for money.
Yet, somehow, when it comes to selling, to winning business many people, including salespeople feel they are doing something that doesn’t quite feel right. Designing a great piece of software that will help a company be hugely more productive is honourable and professional but ‘selling’ that same piece of software is seen as something completely different. It’s not quite a nice thing to do to be ‘selling’; it often causes anxiety and stress. Too many people think that the normal standards of business ethics and integrity don’t apply when it comes to selling, that salespeople can’t afford to have a conscience.
I meet perfectly decent normal human beings who seem to change personality when it’s time to ‘sell’. At a conference in Phoenix, Arizona a couple of years ago a business development executive for an international consultancy business said to me, “You have to sell your soul when it comes to getting people to buy”. She went on to tell me that it’s a tough competitive world out there and you sometimes have to be prepared to put a gloss on things, to make the firm look better than it really is. When I asked if that’s the way she wanted it to be she replied, “Heck no, I hate bending the truth but it’s just the way it is in sales”.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can win business and many people do, without it ever feeling uncomfortable for the seller or buyer. You can sell without feeling that there is something a little unsavoury about selling, without exaggerating or putting a gloss on things and definitely without selling your soul. You can be yourself without ever having to put on an act, use sales techniques or trickery of any kind.
When you apply Principled Selling, building trusted relationships gets easier.
Principled Selling is about selling ethically
You only really notice someone is ‘selling’ to you when they are selling unethically, usually trying to persuade you to buy something that you don’t really want. When someone sells’ you something you want you hardly notice what is going on because you are motivated to buy. As unethical selling is usually to the buyers detriment, many people end up considering all selling to be slightly distasteful because they tend to remember the techniques and tricks used by poor sellers.
Selling ethically simply means identifying a situation where your product or service matches a customer’s requirements. This involves asking relevant questions, listening to the customer, exploring potential solutions and providing information in an understandable way so that the customer can make an informed decision. Selling ethically focuses on the customer and their requirements, not on the need of the seller to generate a sale.
Unethical selling is sometimes obvious and easily recognisable. Television abounds with rouge trader and ‘rip off’ programmes. Sometime it is more subtle. False deadlines to make a decision, up selling an insurance policy just for the higher commission, using fear of crime to persuade a vulnerable person to buy a security system they don’t need, the pretence of seeking permission of a superior to give a discount if the deal is closed today.
Selling ethically requires advanced communication skills and the ability to ask the right insightful questions, to really listen (the toughest selling skill of all) and to provide information that is relevant. The skilled seller has to have the ability to ask probing questions, to challenge and the ability to present information logically, clearly and in a way adapted to suit the customer. It also means being able to challenge a customer when professionally the seller is concerned that they might not make the best decision. Challenging the customer doesn’t mean arguing with them by the way. Principled Sellers earn the right to challenge by building trust. When you have earned the right to challenge you become a trusted advisor and supplier.
Principled Selling is about selling with Integrity
To have integrity is to act according to the values, beliefs and principles a person claims to hold. Principled Selling involves selling ethically and therefore integrity is about the honesty, truthfulness and accuracy of the sellers’ actions. The opposite of integrity is inconsistently and hypocrisy; claiming to have one set of values, beliefs and principles yet failing to consistently act in accordance with them.
When a seller makes claims on their website that they provide a no quibble money back guarantee and a customer wants their money back; behaving with integrity means they get it every time. When a professional says they will never do any work that will incur fees without clearing with the clients first; behaving with integrity means that’s what they do every time. When a salesperson assures a customer that they are passionate about great customer service; integrity means they are consistently passionate about customer service.
Having integrity is easy on good days. When things are going well and there are no difficult choices to make. The real test is on those difficult days’ when behaving in a way that is consistent with your proclaimed values has a perceived cost. Every one of the corporations and financial institutions that let us down during the banking crisis had fine sounding values and corporate social responsibility policies prominently displayed on their web sites and in their marketing materials. The problem was not the proclaimed values and principles; it was that some of them had no integrity.
Principled Selling is about selling with a conscience
Selling with a conscience is about doing the right thing for your customer and the right thing for your own organization. Good conscience is when you know your actions were inherently the right one’s to take. Bad conscience is that feeling of guilt or remorse at not having done the right thing.
If you have a situation where it is clear to you that you cannot deliver on a client’s expectations, doing the right thing is about pointing them in the direction where they could be better served. Even if doing the right means turning down an order and sending them to a competitor. The payback for doing the right thing is the trust you build with your customer.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like these:
- How do you know if you’re a principled seller?
- 21 tips for principled sellers
- If you want to win business, shut up!
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