How to foster an ethical culture in your sales team and business
Growing and managing your company in an ethical manner is no easy feat. Building an ethical culture needs to happen from every facet of the company. It also has to be intentional.
Here are the main ways you can make ethics in sales a habit for your company.
Encourage open communication around goals and expectations
Setting sales goals is essential to moving the entire company forward. When you use the SMART approach in setting goals—making them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based—they can be huge motivators for your sales team.
But when you set ambitious sales quotas and don’t outline a solid plan detailing how to achieve them, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
At best, you’ll end up with bad, high-churning deals. You might also see a drop in your sales team morale, from a dip in performance and a longer sales cycle to an increase in tension.
The worst-case scenario? Driving your sales team to commit fraud. Just remember the Wells Fargo scandal, in which bank tellers opened thousands of fraudulent accounts due to mathematically unrealistic quotas:
“[...] there were only about 11,500 potential customers in the area, and 11 other financial institutions. The quotas for the bankers at Guitron’s branch totaled 12,000 Daily Solutions each year, including almost 3,000 new checking accounts. Without fraud, the math didn’t work.”
Each step of the way, from setting goals and defining your sales cycle to tracking sales results, make it easy for reps to openly share thoughts and concerns. Create a safe space for them.
This can happen through one-on-one meetings, written feedback, regular surveys and any other way that gives your team a voice.
Hire the right salespeople
A surefire way to make ethical selling a default for your sales team? Hiring ethical salespeople.
Of course, being an ethical salesperson isn’t just one thing. It’s a range of traits. Here are some qualities to look for when hiring sales reps:
- Honest: How would they treat a ‘grey area’ scenario? Would they try to get away with a white lie and tweaking the numbers on even a small deal?
- Helpful: How would they help a prospect or a customer that has a specific pain point?
- Courteous: How are their manners? How do they treat people they interact with?
- Humble: Can they leave their ego at the door? How do they talk about their accomplishments, especially when talking about group achievements?
- Caring: Do they display empathy? How do they talk about issues they care about?
- Resilient: How do they cope with stress and rejections?
Develop a code of conduct for ethical selling
Sales reps have lots of influence on their prospect’s decisions; with this influence comes responsibility.
After you’ve hired ethical salespeople and created an open, safe space for them to talk about sales goals and expectations, the next step is to solidify what ethical selling means.
By developing a code of conduct for ethical selling, you’ll have a tangible guide that reps can refer to at any time. It leaves no room for confusion and it makes decision-making during the sales process easier.
Your code of ethics for marketing and sales can include:
- Your business values
- Desirable and appropriate steps for prospecting and approaching potential customers
- Communication principles
- Steps and guidance for handling complaints and conflicts
- Undesirable and unacceptable practices for prospecting, outreach, negotiation and more
Use real and/or fictional examples to paint a vivid picture of the ethical culture you’re aiming for.
This document should be a living, breathing asset you can update and improve as your company evolves. Make it available to every sales rep and ensure it’s not something that collects dust on your hard drive.
It should be a core driver of your sales team’s everyday activities.
Build cold calling scripts and cold email templates
Another way to solidify how sales happen in your company is through cold calling scripts and cold email templates you’ve built and developed together with your sales team.
The purpose of cold calling scripts isn’t blindly following them. Instead, they’re a great way to set the tone and expectations of a great first outreach call. They help your reps get focused instead of worrying about the outcome before the call even started.
It gives each rep a starting point and a framework they can adapt to their own personality and voice.
Cold emails have an extra benefit: they help you scale your team’s sales efforts. With cold email templates, they can do so ethically.
On any given day, it’s much easier to send 100 cold emails than to make 100 cold calls. By building templates, you’ll give reps an easy way to make sure they’re doing so based on your ethical standards instead of winging it.
Run regular training sessions
Regular ethics-focused training sessions with your team will help you make sure your approach to ethical selling works.
Set up a recurring appointment, ideally once a quarter, to check in with your team and go over recent scenarios and situations that came up in their conversations with prospects.
Use these sessions to answer these questions:
- Is your code of conduct for ethical selling clear and straightforward?
- Are there any sales call scenarios we haven’t yet addressed and covered?
- Do the scripts and templates still work?
- Is there an ongoing ethical challenge we need to fix?
- Is it easy for reps to share any issues around current sales quotas?
Use these sales training sessions to role-play scenarios that your reps want to become more confident in.
“Go over ethical dilemmas that come up for the business—real ones,” recommends Liston. “The most obvious is how to handle a customer who wants you to make a promise that you can't actually guarantee.”
You can also develop a checklist for making ethical decisions and include items such as:
- Would I be embarrassed if a customer found out about this behavior?
- Would I be upset if a sales rep did this to me?
- Am I about to do this because I think I can get away with it?
By taking this maintenance approach to ethics in sales, you’ll be able to catch any issues quickly and resolve them before they hurt your reputation or cause damage to your business that’s beyond repair.