I was recently invited to a sales achievement awards ceremony and five things stood out for me. Today I share one. Next week. I’ll share the rest.
Like in any other awards ceremony, there were different categories. The one that I found of greatest interest is the category that rewarded those whose business had not turned to absolute loss for the company. There was an acceptable cut-off point for loss of course, and those above it were rewarded handsomely. It was interesting to note that only a select few of the overall winners met this cut off point; in my world they were awarded for selling ethically. This category had my absolute attention. Here’s why?
Being at the frontline, the salesperson has the grave responsibility of determining whom he lets into the fold and whom he doesn’t. Only time will inform the rest whether it’s a sheep that was let in, a glaring wolf or a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Admittedly, genuine losses will occur but it’s irresponsible of the salesperson to look away and let Lucifer in, merely for the short term gain of earning commissions while compromising long term sustainability of the very commissions and the company’s well being; in effect biting the hand that feeds him.
Ethical selling cannot be overstated. If the sales process were the alimentary canal, the sales person would be the mouth that opened to let the poison in. Once past the throat, only the resulting seizures, vomiting and diarrhoea by the body would raise the red flag that poison had been ingested. With luck, the system get’s cleaned and doesn’t die. You may recall the relentless punitive campaign a telecommunications firm held against a former employee charged with fraud and the court proceedings involved.
According to reports, last year alone, financial institutions lost a staggering Kes. 2B to fraud. That is roughly enough to educate every primary school going child for free for a term! These losses are not all made at the frontline of course. Still, a portion of the fraud that occurs in these financial institutions is possible because an account was opened. Such an account is not limited to that of a bank; suppliers, distributors, creditors and all business significant others irrespective of industry have an account through which they pay or are paid.
The sales person in the manufacturing concern, or the insurance company, or the media outlet is charged with the responsibility of canvassing for the new accounts, proceeds from which will keep the entity afloat. This responsibility is a double edged sword; it can benefit or bleed the company. An organization’s frontline is truly its Achilles heel. Just like a country’s borders can be porous and let in elements bent on ill, as we have recently experienced in Kenya, a company’s border, manned by its points of contact, is thus just as exposed to the extent of their being ethical. There could be innocent reason for letting in the wolf. The salesperson, naive in matters operational, and driven purely by the pressure to meet targets, may not make the mental leap from harmless sales statistic to potentially harmful account. To be fair to the salesperson, in the quest to rapidly stimulate the sales numbers, some organizations have forgotten to educate him of the repercussions of letting the snake into the garden. In the process, an avalanche of accounts has been opened and an equally painful onslaught of closing many of them has followed.
Selling unethically presents both a financial and reputational risk to both the salesperson and the business. The Daily Nation has a Public Notice page. It’s sad that most times the mug shot is of a salesperson turned rogue. Such repeated actions by a firm cast aspersions on its credibility.
Selling responsibly is a mutual task. Continual education and reinforcement by the business owner on the one hand, while on the other, the sales person being ethical.
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