Introduction to Integrity Selling
Over the last few decades, salespeople have been drilled to use heavy handed tactics to coerce and badger people into buying their products. For example, the well-known adage of selling: “Always Be Closing,” has been the mantra of countless sales organisations. For a time, these methods were effective because salespeople held the information advantage. They knew more about their products, pricing, and industry than their prospects, so buyers depended on them for advice. Now that we are well into the information age, people have access to all of this literally at their fingertips. While this might sound bad for salespeople, it represents an opportunity for those who are truly committed to excellence to stand out from the crowd. I am assuming that by reading this article that you are one of these individuals, and want to urge you to evolve from using sales tactics to what I call “integrity selling.”
Definition of Integrity Selling
Even though I use the word “evolve” to describe the change from outdated sales methods to integrity selling, it is by no means a new concept. Doing business with the utmost of integrity has always been the road to lasting success. I’m sure you’ll be able to cite stories of unscrupulous individuals who have made millions through immoral means, but these cases only look at financial gain in the short-term, and I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s much more to success than making money (that, and future consequences will come back to bite them in the butt). In my view, living successfully involves having self-respect knowing that you are making a real contribution to other people’s lives. The financial rewards will follow as a natural consequence.
I define “integrity selling” in two parts: 1. Think win-win1, and 2. Be truthful in what you say and do. Living with integrity in general is more complex, but I’m convinced that if salespeople embraced just these two changes, that it would guide 90% of their behaviour. After all, almost all of our work involves building relationships and communicating effectively.
Thinking “win-win” is about ensuring that both parties (client and your business) mutually benefit from their relationship. It is the basis by which all relationships exist and thrive. In my previous article about Selling Benefits vs. Selling Value, I wrote about how our clients must enjoy more value than they pay for our products. This does NOT mean that you should be selling at a loss – you should always charge a fair price and profit from the transaction as a reward for the value delivered. The key element that salespeople often forget is to ensure that their client wins too.
“Being truthful in what we say and do” means keeping our word even when it comes at a cost. Your personal integrity is priceless, after all. Having this mindset has the additional benefit of allowing you to speak and act with greater authority. When you are fully convicted by your beliefs and what you say, there’s no need to trick yourself or fake sincerity. Your words will carry greater weight and persuasive power. Acting truthfully simply means keeping your word – if you say you will meet a prospect at 10:00am on Tuesday, pretend you are meeting the Prime Minister (or if you don’t like our Prime Minister, someone else you hold in high regard) and ensure you are not late for that appointment.
In Selling Benefits vs. Selling Value, I shared a story about a prospect who would not have been better off buying my employer’s online marketing services. The deal was not a win-win exchange, and so pushing for the sale would have failed the first criteria of the integrity selling mindset. Furthermore, if I withheld this information from the prospect, it would have been untruthful by omission, violating the second part of integrity selling.
Consider now the inverse logic (you might want to read this slowly): if it’s wrong to sell when the deal is not win-win, then it is also wrong not to sell when the deal is win-win! The situations I’m referring to are those where we don’t sell our product when it is clearly in the best interest of the prospect. It may sound ridiculous at first, but listing some causes may bring this idea closer to home:
- Have you ever put off a deal from a lack of courage? (E.g. Due to fear of rejection)
- Have you ever not followed up when you should have?
- Have you ever allowed unimportant distractions like idle chit-chat to take up your selling time?
If you can relate to any of these, don’t fret – use this rationale as a moral high-ground to bust any excuses you might have for not selling to those who need your product!
Application of Integrity Selling
When it comes to being truthful in what you say and do, consider your word as your bond. Ancient wisdom teaches us not to make promises, because your words should be considered promises in and of themselves2. This should caution you when promoting your product. Everything that you say about the product’s abilities, quality, and delivery time should be accurate. Granted, there will always be mistakes and unforeseen circumstances. Clients understand this, and will be forgiving if you have been truthful upfront and fix mistakes without making excuses. Paradoxically, your job as a salesperson is to paint your products in the best possible light. By all means do so, but it can be achieved while holding our clients’ best interests at heart, and doing so truthfully.
Now grab a pen and paper and write down your answers to the following questions:
- What will you do when you know your client isn’t going to benefit from your product?
- How do you feel about yourself when you are untruthful about your product?
- What can you change immediately to sell with integrity?
Imagine a world where all salespeople and businesses only sold when clients would truly benefit. We would have no more pushy and dodgy salespeople, and fewer incidents of buyer’s remorse. For now, it’s a dream. However, by internalising this way of thinking we can begin a movement of perpetual value generation. You will be more successful, and can look into the mirror with pride.
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1 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
2 The Bible, Matthew 5:33-37