Ethical Selling

Look at the number of abominable Ponzi schemes that have come to light recently and you can’t be blamed for wondering if anyone can trust their personal financial advisor. While the majority of advisors are ethical, trustworthy individuals with the best intentions, who maintain the best interests of their clients, a few bad apples reinforce an age-old mistrust of salespeople.

If we are to abolish selling’s negative reputation salespeople must, without exception, follow a code of ethics and behave with integrity.

There are many benefits to following a code of ethics:

There is power in practicing personal integrity. Integrity and consistently ethical behaviour create trust and believability. Trust is one of the most valuable factors in successful selling. When customers trust you, they will share more confidential and relevant information, enabling you to make better recommendations.

Integrity communicates believability. Customers are less likely to demand evidence for your statements, which saves you time and extra work.

Integrity increases your confidence level. You don’t have to look over your shoulder. You’re not wasting time and energy hiding secrets and worrying about getting caught.

Your integrity increases the customer’s confidence. Their decision to buy is easier and they will tend to make even bigger decisions quickly.

Acting ethically improves communications. You deal openly and with transparency.

Because you act with integrity, you expect others to do the same and you will tend to get what you expect.

How do we work on our ethics? Almost everyone knows what is “right.” All of the major religious philosophies have similar principles and their core teachings provide valuable lessons in building and living with integrity.

Still, it’s important to crystallize your own ethical stance. Take time to think through the principles by which you intend to live your life. Someone once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Make decisions in advance about how you will act in given situations. If something is unethical, don’t do it.

To start your thinking, refer to the code set out by the Canadian Professional Sales Association:

The Certified Sales Professional pledges and commits to uphold these standards in all activities. I will:

  1. Maintain honesty and integrity in all relationships with customers, prospective customers, and colleagues and continually work to earn their trust and respect.
  2. Accurately represent my products or services to the best of my ability in a manner that places my customer or prospective customer and my company in a position that benefits both.
  3. Respect and protect the proprietary and confidential information entrusted to me by my company and my customers and not engage in activities that may conflict with the best interest of my customers or my company.
  4. Continually upgrade my knowledge of my products/services, skills and my industry.
  5. Use the time and resources available to me only for legitimate business purposes. I will only participate in activities that are ethical and legal, and when in doubt, I will seek counsel.
  6. Respect my competitors and their products and services by representing them in a manner which is honest, truthful and based on accurate information that has been substantiated.
  7. Endeavour to engage in business and selling practices which contribute to a positive relationship with the community.
  8. Assist and counsel my fellow sales professionals where possible in the performance of their duties.
  9. Abide by and encourage others to adhere to this Code of Ethics.
  10. As a certified sales professional, I understand that the reputation and professionalism of all salespeople depends on me as well as others engaged in the sales profession, and I will adhere to these standards to strengthen the reputation and integrity for which we will strive.

A few key individuals in the financial industry need to learn and adhere to these points. If they had done so, perhaps their industry wouldn’t be in the mess it currently finds itself and billions of dollars that have disappeared would be where they rightfully belong – in their client’s accounts.

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April 1, 2010

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