The concept of integrity seems inherently at odds with some prospects' perceptions of sales professionals. It's a field partially-defined by the cliche of the sleazy salesperson — the one on the used car lot that knowingly sells you a lemon or any other borderline con-person who's out for cash and nothing else.
In reality, that cliche couldn't be more far off. The best salespeople are ones with morals and standards who sell to prospects because they know their product will suit those companies' needs and interests better than anyone else.
The most effective salespeople have legitimate integrity. It's a critically important, criminally under-appreciated quality that can take a talented salesperson to the next level.
Here are some crucial components to selling with integrity and insight into why it matters.
Keys to Sales Integrity
- Believe in your product or service.
- Be respectful and rational when discussing your competition.
- Appreciate the fact that your prospect has taken the time to talk with you.
- Remain honest — even in the face of losing deals.
1. Believe in your product or service.
It's impossible to sell with integrity when you don't actually see any merit in the product or service you're selling. If you're selling some product you couldn't care less about, your whole approach is bound to be hollow.
Selling with integrity takes gumption and sincerity, and your ability to muster both probably doesn't come with just any product or service. Be sure to have some emotional weight behind your sales efforts.
Try to only sell products that you believe have legitimate merit. Otherwise, you'll wind up compromising your integrity and making meaningless sales pitches that will wind up burning you out.
2. Be respectful and rational when discussing your competition.
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that most salespeople aren't still in middle school, so it's not unreasonable to ask that you don't bad-mouth your competition behind their back. It's unbecoming, unethical, and can often put prospects off.
You need to have a reasonable picture of your company's brand position and competitive landscape. Understand your competitors' strengths and weaknesses relative to your company. Be able to speak to those features frankly and honestly.
It's tempting to totally downplay the competition's merit and present your product or service as the be-all, end-all option in your space. But there's no integrity in that. Instead, you need to understand what differentiates your offering and be able to articulate how and why it suits your prospect's specific needs.
There's nothing ethical about gossip and put-downs. Plus, you've been out of seventh grade for a while now. That stuff isn't cool anymore.
3. Appreciate the fact that your prospect has taken the time to talk with you.
Always remain respectful of the prospect, their time, and the fact that they're interested in talking with you. Just because they're engaging with you doesn't mean they owe you anything, so don't approach the conversation with impatience and contempt.
Selling with integrity means staying compassionate throughout the sales process. Remember, the sale is about and for your prospect. They're the ones taking on the most risk and financial commitment in the transaction.
Your sales integrity is often measured by your sincere commitment to the customer. Put their interests first, and make sure any negotiation or back-and-forth is done with patience and in good faith.
4. Remain honest — even in the face of losing deals.
In a lot of respects, sales integrity is about maintaining composure — understanding that letting yourself get overly emotional about a deal can cloud your judgment and put prospects off. If you're on the brink of losing a deal, it might seem convenient to overly play up some of your product's features or promise results that aren't viable.
Resist those instincts. Remain committed to the truth. If you want to make an appeal to a prospect you're on the verge of losing, do it on an honest basis. Explain how your specific product will suit their specific needs.
If you make promises you can't keep or promote features that won't live up to the expectations you set, you're probably going to wind up with some disgruntled customers. There's a good chance they might be inclined to move on from your product or service quickly and leave some negative reviews on their way out.
Why Sales Integrity Is Important
As a salesperson, you're like a micro-spokesperson for your company. You're partially responsible for molding your brand identity. The credibility and promotability of your company rest, in part, on you, your actions, and the ethical standards you operate by.
No company wants to be notorious for having sleazy, disingenuous salespeople. Consumers talk. If they have particularly bad interactions with your sales team, they probably won't keep those experiences to themselves. You'll lose face in your industry, and future prospects might be wary of doing business with you.
Apart from the external ramifications your lack of integrity might have for your company, having no sales integrity can impact you personally and professionally. It's unethical and, ultimately, less effective.
As a salesperson, you want to approach a potential deal with as much authority as possible. And legitimate authority is based on truth and understanding. If you want to be the best salesperson can be, you have to commit to both.
Use the truth to highlight your understanding of how you can help your prospect better than anyone else can. Exceptional salespeople can do just that. A talented salesperson without values and standards can probably still generate business for a company, but the deals they make might be ultimately problematic.
They could sell products or services to prospects who won't get what they need from what they pay for and, in turn, contribute to a disgruntled customer base. The sustained success of your business is largely based on customer satisfaction, and it's harder to consistently serve and delight customers who come in under false pretenses.
As a salesperson, it's in your best interest to carry out your efforts with integrity. Not only does it help you better serve your prospects — it makes you a better sales professional as a whole.