Maintaining Ethical Standards

Many industries have their own specific codes of ethics – even legal requirements – when it comes to advertising and sales. Pharmaceutical companies, legal firms, insurance companies, and investment advisers must adhere to specific ethical standards.
However, if your industry doesn’t subscribe to specific industry standards, you’ll have to set your own code of ethics. That’s part of the job of being an effective sales leader. Your brand reputation is hard to build, but can be quickly ruined if customers lose confidence that your sales organization has their best interests at heart.
It’s not always easy. There may be consistent temptations for salespeople to “stretch the truth,” misrepresent product features, and merely pay lip service to being accountable for customer satisfaction. That’s why it’s essential that you be absolutely clear on your company’s ethical values – and communicate these values to anyone who joins your sales team.
Some basic principles, among others, you may wish to adopt include requiring sales people to:
  • Adhere to a concept of selling that respects consumers.
  • Add value to the mutual benefit of both your company and the customer.
  • Under no circumstances misrepresent product to customers.
  • Never take actions that are detrimental to a customer’s well-being.
  • Offer maximum customer value at the lowest reasonable cost.
  • Provide quick response to any customer dissatisfaction and take prompt action – even if it means escalating the issue to senior management.
  • Quickly fulfill all promises made to customers – and follow up with customers accordingly.
Your role is to define this written code of ethics and make sure your sales team knows you take it extremely seriously. You may even ask salespeople to sign a document pledging to be held to these standards. During sales meetings, you can reinforce these standards when appropriate.
What do you do when a salesperson violates your ethical standards? You may consider a stern warning on the first violation. For the second violation, you may consider terminating the employee. 
Remember to take these ethical issues seriously, because your brand suffers if customers don’t feel comfortable dealing with your company’s sales team.

Game Plan

  • Create a code of ethics that reflects your company’s values and put it in writing.
  • Make sure that each salesperson and new salespeople you hire sign off on that code.
  • Reinforce what ethical conduct means at sales meetings when appropriate.
  • Create an employee handbook. This tool, will allow you to address core company values directly to employees.
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