Markets present a clash of interest between various players. There is competition for resources, customers and price etc, which breeds ground for activities that may not get ethical sanctions. A certain code of conduct, policies and practices called ethics are required to manage markets and marketing.
Sales ethics refers to a set of behaviors that ensure that every lead, prospect and customer is treated with respect, fairness, honesty and integrity.
It means that, as a salesperson or marketer, you put the people you sell to first. You respect their choices and opinions instead of forcing your agenda on them.
Marketing is the heart of all businesses and all other functions depend upon the same for keeping the business moving. It is one business function that interacts the most with markets, in fact markets are meant to sell and they exist only when they sell! In such a scenario there are bound to be multiple players and a clash is inevitable. Such clash leads to malpractices like hoarding, price competitions, brand wars and use of unfair tactics, which is precisely where marketing ethics come into play.
Simply put, ethics means principle or values by which marketing ought to be conducted in the market place. Logically also when there are huge number of transactions involved, a certain code or guiding principles are required to ensure that operations and industry competitiveness is fair and beneficial to the end user. There are different philosophies or schools of thought for ethics in marketing, one is the political philosophy and the other is the transaction focused.
Whereas one school of thought says that all marketing efforts should be focused on maximizing the shareholder value and that this is the only marketing ethics; the other believes that that marketing and market is equally responsible to consumers, other stake holders and the shareholders. The tactic of targeting targeted segments, creating needs that were inexistent till now, transparency about the source of labor and environmental risks, transparency about the use of source and the ingredients, appropriate labeling, mentioning associated health risks, advertising jurisprudence and not making false promises fall within the ambit of marketing ethics.
Lots of marketing and promotion was carried out for goods and services that were not a need till yesterday and only a luxury. Today cell phones have become a need and a status symbol! These are issues that are being discussed in marketing ethics nowadays. Marketing ethics is in its budding stage only considering that it came into being only in late 1990s.
Like other ethical disciplines, marketing ethics is also looked up from various perspectives. There is the perspective of virtue, expediency and other perspectives. But like other ethics there is also the difficulty of deciding the agency responsible for ethical practice. Since there is not one single agency responsible for ethics this gives the independence to an individual or to any marketing agency to act on its own and be ethical!
Marketing ethics unlike other business ethics is not only restricted to the field of marketing alone. It influences many aspects of our life and especially in developing perceptions in the minds of people and creating identities, classes and sections in the society. The visual channels of communication used for marketing sometimes lead to closure of knowledge, opinions, ideas and beliefs. It creates prejudices in the mind of people.
Don’t attack your competitors
“Why should I pick you over your competitor?” is a question you’ll hear more times than you want to.
- Slander and criticize your competitor for everything they do worse than you.
- Use this as an opportunity to show your knowledge of available options and why your product stands out, brings better results and is more suited to the prospect’s needs.
Belittling your competitors won’t make you look better in your prospect’s eyes. Instead, they’ll see you as dishonest and unethical.
Instead, use the Competitor question as an opportunity to showcase:
- A feature comparison, with an explanation of why your product is a better match to your prospect’s pain points.
- Case studies and success stories of existing customers that switched from a competitor to you.
- What makes you and your product unique, like onboarding, product documentation, walkthroughs and anything else that makes your customer’s experience exceptional.
Always be honest about the impact your product makes
Picture this: You’re on a sales call. It’s going well and you’ve built a great rapport with your prospect. But then they ask you for more insights into your product’s specifics, including features, capabilities and pricing options.
You may feel tempted to say exactly what your prospect wants to hear just to close the sale, even if it’s not completely true. For example, you could exaggerate the results other customers got with the product or completely make up figures.
Adopt the Serve Don’t Sell Method
The sales process is fundamentally about helping buyers make informed decisions. According to Liston Witherill, creator of the Serve Don’t Sell Method, this approach lifts the pressure from sales reps to sell anything.
The Serve Don’t Sell (SDS) Method is made of five stages you can follow in sequence:
Discovery: Establish your prospect’s personal and organizational pain points, why this change needs to happen now, their goals, objectives and motivations.
Fit: Define your Perfect Fit Client (PFC) using demographic and psychographic factors such as job title, industry, company size, beliefs, core problems, previous experience.
Offer: Include your prospect’s pain points and goals, how you can help, examples of similar previous clients, options of working with you and a Q&A section.
Transition: Onboard and prepare your client, establish points of contact and send supporting materials and documentation that will make them more successful.
Agreement: Send a written proposal, collect and address unmet needs and get a signed contract.