(Thanks to Kapil who asked me to write about this topic!)
When I started my sales career at Xerox, it was clear that poor performance was unacceptable. Each month, the regional offices would post stack rankings of all the reps showing their monthly numbers as well as their year-to-date results.
Being at the bottom of those stack rankings was not only humiliating, but also meant that you’d likely be out looking for a job before too long. Being and staying on the top was something we all aspired to. The accolades, the money and prestige were enormous – and hugely seductive.
Why am I sharing this? Because sellers at either end of those stack rankings (including me at the time), were likely to “cheat” a little in order to improve their positions. Behaviors I saw exhibited included:
- Misrepresenting product/service capabilities, mostly through “omission.”
- Selling in other people’s territories.
- Casting unfair aspersions on competitive offerings or even their co-workers.
- Giving away gifts under the table to sweeten the deal.
So what’s the big deal? Each of these non-ethical behaviors (and the host of others that I haven’t mentioned) can have serious ramifications.
It eats away at your personal integrity. If you’re willing to do one little “cheating” behavior, the next one is easier. Over time, you’ll have “sold your soul” in order to get the order.
Once your colleagues discover your willingness to bend the rules to get ahead, this impacts how much they feel they can trust you. Professionally, you’ll find yourself becoming more isolated, as they avoid sharing what’s really happening.
Upon sensing or actually uncovering your self-serving behaviors, prospects may refuse to do business with you entirely. Or, they’ll get rid of you as a vendor as soon as humanly possible. You’ll actually lose work in the long run.
Your reputation as an unethical person or business will spread. Even in major metropolitan areas, the news gets around via negative “word of mouth.” From what I’ve read, the average unhappy customer tells a whole lot of their friends.
With the growth of social media, unhappy customers are more than willing to share the entirety of their conversations and interactions with you. They’ll post this information on line for the world to see. If a prospect “googles” your company, they’ll get a chance to read all about it.
If you’re tempted to be even the slightest bit unethical, don’t do it. Instead, do what’s right. You can live with yourself much better. And, it’s good for business.