Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Importance of Character in Selling

Even if you aren't following the 2012 Presidential election campaigns, I'm sure you've heard of the allegations leveled against Republican hopeful Herman Caine. Women are coming out of the woodwork, claiming that he had used his position of power in the past to get them to have sexual relations with him and then paid them to keep it quiet. Why does this scenario sound so familiar? Oh, that's right! It happens every time someone runs for president.

I'm not defending or supporting Herman Caine or the Republican party; my political opinions are irrelevant. The point I wish to make is in regards to the commonly used ad hominem argument in political campaigns. It's so much easier to attack the person than it is the policy. If you can dig up some dirt on a candidate's character, you can take him down fast! Regardless of how effective he will be at administering his policies and regardless of how good those policies are for the country, if there is not a heart of integrity lying beneath them, nobody cares!

Character in Selling

Salespeople, like politicians, are often viewed as having questionable character. Politicians, after all, are salespeople. When giving speeches, they are really giving pitches. Their product is their ability to serve in office. They are selling themselves and their policies. When dealing with a salesperson, the default is often cynicism. Everything the salesperson says is taken with a grain of salt. If this is where the sales relationship begins, imagine where the relationship will go if the prospect suspects a lack of integrity on the part of the salesperson!

Now, it isn't likely that a salesperson have a charge of sexual misconduct leveled against her, but it is highly likely that her honesty and intentions be called into question. Most people have no problem believing that the average salesperson will willingly lie to get a sale. So, if the prospect even gets a vibe that you are being dishonest or engaging in manipulative tactics, you are in the same boat as Herman Caine--trying to defend your integrity while you should be focusing on showing your prospect the benefits of your offering.

I think it's time we raise the bar. Is it possible for us to change the stereotype? Will there come a day when people respond to questions about our integrity by saying, "That's ridiculous! A salesperson would never lie to me!" Perhaps that's wishful thinking. But let's focus on what we can do--we can choose not to perpetuate the stereotype. We can be honest and straightforward with our prospects. We can focus on helping them rather than manipulating and exploiting them. Yes, there will be dirt thrown on us--attacks on our integrity over which we have no control, but that doesn't mean we have to roll around in the mud. We can set a new standard for integrity in selling.
What about you? How do people perceive you as a salesperson? Is everything you say discounted, or do people trust your character enough to listen to what you have to say?

featured image courtesy of markn3tel licensed via Creative Commons


  1. Doug, nice message! Despite stereotypes used to to make sense of the world around us, we can choose not to reinforce limiting stereotypes. People may be skeptical, so consistency is key. Your message, Doug, applies to all roles we play professionally and personally.

    Also, nicely written post, too.

  2. Thanks, Shawn! I appreciate your kind words. Our character and integrity is all we've got. I like your comment about stereotypes being a way to understand the world around us. And, oftentimes, as unfortunately is the case with many salespeople, stereotypes are there for a reason. However, as you say, I don't think we should ever stereotype ourselves. We are only limited by what we think about ourselves. Great insight! Thanks, Shawn.