Ethical Selling: How Sales Leaders Can Foster a Culture of Integrity and Respect with Dr. Nadia Brown {Part One}

Ethical Selling: How Sales Leaders Can Foster a Culture of Integrity and Respect with Dr. Nadia Brown {Part One}

Go to Show Notes here.

Here’s the transcript:


I’m so excited to be back on the mic. It’s season three of our Straight Talk About Sales podcast and I want to kick this season off by talking about morals, ethics, values, integrity in sales. If you’re familiar with my story and my journey and getting here, then you’re likely already know that I had my own challenges, hang ups, my own roadblocks around Sales, and being comfortable in sales. I’ve often shared the story that there were trainings and guidance that I’d received in how to do sales in a particular way. And I was like, that doesn’t sit well with me.        


It just wasn’t in alignment. And I rebelled. Instead of like I was like, I’m just not going to do it. Not that I didn’t try. So I did try to be a good student, but it just didn’t work out for me.        


But I also learned that in order for me to build my business, I needed to learn how to do sales. And so that led me on the journey that ultimately landed me in launching what we now have as our agency, where we focus on and provide sales support and sales training to service based businesses. But in that a big part of it is this whole conversation around ethics. And I remember as I was making this transition and really some of the thoughts and decisions I had to make and shifting the focus and the nature of my business was just the connotation and reputation that comes with Sales. And while we don’t solely work with coaches, we do work with a lot of different types of businesses.        


It doesn’t matter because ethics is ethics. Ethics are important. And that conversation comes up despite what types of clients we work with. So I know there have been a lot of discussions and conversations, particularly in the coaching industry, and I have a lot of colleagues in the industry. There are a lot of things that I’ve done.        


And again, we support coaches and consultants. But I also recall a client that we’ve worked with that led a team of therapists. Completely different. Well, not necessarily because there’s that fine line, right? Some type of thing, coaching and therapy, right?        


But anywho, this was a therapy organization that had a team of therapists. And I recall as we were developing the training for the clinicians, part of what we really had to address was, what does sales look like in that environment that does not violate any ethical standards, right? And it can sometimes feel very precarious to be honest in those situations and how do you have those conversations? So as a business leader, as you’re looking at your business and your business goals, but then also as you’re looking at your team. And sometimes that’s why we’re hesitant to bring in sales support, because we know how we operate when we’re personally doing sales.        


But we have very little control. We have some influence, we have no control, really over what someone else may do, even if they’re representing our company or our brand. And one thing I found interesting, and I made a whole separate podcast on this, but how we as business owners or business leaders, in some of the conversations I’ve had and feedback I’ve heard from people who are good at sales and proficient in sales in their own companies, but how they feel about sales people in general. It’s really fascinating, but we won’t talk about that focus. Anyway, so, today we’re having this conversation around ethics.        


And so first I just wanted to let’s just define it, right? We hear these words tossed around, but what does it really mean? And how are we going to address this within our own organizations to make sure that whatever our ethical standards are, that not only do we live up to those and abide by them, but we create the culture in which our team, including our salespeople, abide by them as well? So ethnic without the S, because, you know, Nadia is that person. This comes from Mary and Webster.        


Online is defined as a set of moral principles, a theory or system of moral values. So you may have heard a lot about value statements. I know my team and I, we’ve done some value work and all that fun stuff about what we really stand for within our agency and then it’s communicated and it’s also used as kind of that benchmark as we’re looking at clients we work with as well as team members that we may bring on board. Are they in alignment with that? The other thing.        


So there’s ethic without the S and ethics with the S. So ethics is defined as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. So when you look at your industry, what it is that you particularly do in your work, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s accounting, finance, whatever that is, what is your duty and obligation and what do you see as your duty and obligation to your clients and to your prospects? Because I feel like many times when we think about sales and we’re working on building out our sales systems, when we work with clients we’re like, it doesn’t start with the conversation, it doesn’t start with the actual invitation. There are things that you are doing in your marketing and your advertising and the things that you’re putting together leading up to this decision that is made.        


And then you get to have a conversation with someone and make or extend an invitation for them to work with you or your organization. But all along the way, what do you see as your moral duty and obligation, as your values? What’s important to you? What are your ethical standards and how will people operate within your organization? Because, you as a leader, you get to define this.        


And here’s the thing. When we have these conversations around ethics. Many times the reasons why people are hesitant around sales or they have that around a feeling is because there have been so many unethical people out here in these sales streets, right? Let’s just put it out there. Regardless of industry, right, that is not industry specific, and people have likely had more than one instance of being a buyer and experiencing that.        


And so what happens? A lot of times you have that cognitive dissonance when you’re like, whoa, whoa. I’ve been a buyer mostly in these instances, right, throughout my entire life. I make a decision to start a business or to join an organization where I accidentally find myself in a position where now I’m selling or I’m invited to take on a sales role or participate in sales in some sort of way. And I’m like, no, because I know what I have experienced being the buyer, and I don’t want to now switch and become that person that I encountered, which was not pleasant in many cases.        


Not only was it not pleasant, it wasn’t ethical. It was out of integrity. It was out of alignment. We’ve heard words in terms like gaslighting, it can get crazy. I just say you just kind of beat somebody or bully them into submission of working with you.        


Like, it happens. That is not always the case, but I’ve yet to meet a person who hasn’t had an experience like that. And especially when you’re now making that transition into starting a business or entrepreneurship, and you’re like, oh, wait, hold up. I have to sell, then all of that comes to the surface. We rarely reach back and grab by default those pleasant experiences, right?        


And I have to be like, okay, let’s see what the positive things. But the cool thing is we get to define that. So I wanted to just put those definitions out there. There’s one more I wanted to read, morals. Because often ethics, values, morals, all of those words are used, sometimes synonymously.        


So morals often describes one’s particular values concerning what is right and what is wrong. So there are so many of us who have particular feelings around sales and what that looks like, especially as business owners and business leaders. And one of the things that I personally had to do as I was on my own journey was define what was right and what was wrong for Nadia, and what would a sales experience look like for people who wanted to work with me when I was a coach? And now with our agency, when they’re working with our team, we get to define that. And there are things that I’ve learned along the way that I’m like.        


I like that we can implement that. And there are things along the way, and I’m like, Absolutely not. So as you’re thinking about your business, as you are thinking about your sales, and particularly as you are thinking about expanding your team, one thing is important as a leader is for you to take a moment and step back to define it and communicate it. And oftentimes when we’ve gone or we’re in that transition from being a one woman or one man show, pretty much a lot of times it was us and a virtual assistant and we were in here doing our thing, right? And now we’re looking to grow and expand and we’re inviting other people because maybe we are now looking at training our non sales team members to now look at their role slightly different to support in the sales process.        


But all of this stuff starts to come up, and especially when you start to look online and you hear the chatter, and then you start to think about your own experiences. And then you have a choice. Am I going to just kind of go with the status quo or am I going to set a different standard? Whatever that standard is. Or maybe it’s not even a different standard.        


Like this is just the standard you’ve always operated in. You just haven’t necessarily defined it because you really don’t have to. The only person that was really there was you. So now that you have team, let’s take the time to define the standard and then also understand the challenges that our team members may even have. And also sometimes our prospects, let’s be honest, depending on the types of clients you work with, these are also some of the things that are going through their mind as they are interacting with you and your organization.        


And so then we see a lot of things. We hear a lot of things, the articles being written. We see people sometimes that are under the gun or they’re being attacked by the haters or whatever, I don’t know. But I just see what I see and it can cause us to do a couple of things. One, we can sympathize.        


I don’t think that’s not necessarily what I say. I think sympathizing is fine. One, we can just say that it is what it is and that’s just how it always has been. Or we now have this opportunity to really stand up and demonstrate and execute and offer a different experience. There’s one thing, a quote that I’ve often shared from Daniel Pink’s book To Sell Is Human.        


Because again, those of us who are business owners, business leaders, entrepreneurs, we’re not the only ones that sell. Like sales is a part of our everyday lives, even outside of business. It’s just obviously more highlighted because without sales, we don’t have a business. So as you are thinking though, about how am I expanding my team, how am I going to build my own in-house team, what’s going on with my existing team? Whether they’re salespeople or especially when we start to invite our non salespeople on our team to start thinking about or learning these new skills, you sometimes run into this resistance and a big part of it is rooted here.        


Now, the good thing is, if your team has seen the operations and how you operate it and the overall culture of the company and they’re cool with it, you often find what I’ve seen with clients is their non sales team people are so stinking excited about what they’re doing and how they’re doing within the organization, they’re asking to learn how to sell, right? It’s like, yes, but if you’re not kind of introducing this to them, you may be like, okay, we may need to work on that. So I want you to sometimes understand what’s their thought process, what are some of the things that are coming up for them and why you might feel some resistance. Because sales feels and has often been a dirty word, and it doesn’t have to be.        


So, anyhow, let’s get to Daniel’s quote. So Daniel’s quote from his book To Sell Is Human,  “To the smart set, sales is an endeavor that requires little intellectual throw weight—a task for slick glad-handers who skate through life on a shoeshine and a smile. To others it’s the province of dodgy characters doing slippery things—a realm where trickery and deceit get the speaking parts while honesty and fairness watch mutely from the rafters. Still others view it as the white-collar equivalent of cleaning toilets—necessary perhaps, but unpleasant and even a bit unclean.”   


Needless to say, no one is reaching out and jumping up necessarily to become or be that salesperson and in that role, because of all that it brings up. So as you are looking at your team, as you’re looking at the rest of this year, moving into the next year, as you’re looking at your growth and your scale plans, we have to come back to this. And it’s not just the ethics in the sales, because sometimes there are challenges there. Trust me, there have been, and I’ve mentioned a few. But then you mix the two with special we’ll use the word special sales strategies and tactics that some people may view as unethical.        


And then you couple that with poor implementation and client experience, and that’s when you get a whole hot mess, right? Whole hot mess. Ethical, unethical experience on the front end, terrible unethical experience on the back end. Because people now feel like I’m not getting what you promised. So that’s why, again, it’s so important that we as business leaders, as we’re looking at our experience, our systems, I should say, that when we map out the entire client journey, it’s important for us to pause and make sure all these pieces align.        


And here’s the thing, we’re not always going to get it perfect, right? Even in our agency, I don’t know how many times we have to go back and be like, okay, we need to fix this. This is in alignment. We’ve shifted here. We pivoted here.        


Now we got to go back and clean all this stuff up. And so when you don’t get it right, admit that, hello, I’m human, and look for the ways to make it right. Right, apologize. You won’t die for saying I’m sorry or I made a mistake. Trust me, you won’t die.        


And what can we do to make it right and look for a solution? Most people are reasonable and it’s not that big of a deal. But when you couple all these pieces and you throw it into the mix of people’s experiences, then you start to get so much resistance and it just continues to further compound the negative reputation that salespeople have. And it’s completely unnecessary. Like it is not that hard to operate ethically, to do the right thing, to respect the decision making abilities of the adults that we are talking to as our prospects and then say do deliver what we said we would do.        


It’s really not that difficult. Really not that difficult. But I get that we often are doing too much, moving too fast and we need to take a step back to provide our clients with a different experience. That is of course, unless you subscribe to just being unethical and then in that case, this podcast episode is not for you. So again, as you are looking at your company, as you are looking at your team, as you are looking at growing and expanding, where does ethics come up?        


How do you best address it within your organization? But the first step I want you to do is to get clear on what’s ethical to you for us is definitely to honor the honor I can’t even remember right now, I just said it to honor the decision making ability of our prospects and to really have a focus on relationship bullying is not necessary. And to always keep our values, our ethics, our standards in place and do our best to always honor and deliver what it is that we said we would do in the time frame that we said it would. And if for whatever reason, when we don’t get it right because we are again human, we apologize and we work with our clients to see what we need to do to make it right. Simple as that.        


So as you are looking and working with your teams and you all are having these conversations, start to dig a little bit deeper around where do people, what feels ethical to some people? Because as a client I mentioned earlier, we have this team, we’re introducing this new concept, this new actually new responsibility that we’re then inviting them into that was not part of their previous role and that was one of the things that came up. Is this ethical? So we had to address it in the sales training. And how do you in your particular role do sales and still be able to sell and enroll and serve rate in a way that is still in alignment with the standards of the industry.        


There are any licensing and those types of standards, but also, what are your own personal, like, moral is your personal, what are your particular values and what you define as right and as wrong. And so now as sales leaders, we have that opportunity to have those conversations not only with ourselves, but also with our team to see and to make sure that we’re all in alignment. And sometimes it’s just semantics. So allow your team space to talk about it safely, remove all judgment and be willing to ask the questions like, what do you mean by that? For example, I often have to share this example when I’ve spoken.        


My husband and I at the time of this recording would have been married almost 15 years. And we celebrate our 15th year anniversary this year. And I remember when we first got married, he would often say, like, babe, we’re broke.        


We weren’t like a jillionaire, but by Nadia’s definition, we were far from broke. And for a couple of times I was like, were we victims of identity theft? Did someone just go clean out our bank account? What is going on? But then he just kept saying, I remember the first time I was over there online, like he’s talking about someone taking all our money, so checking our online account, right?        


And so finally one day, as we’re still kind of having these random interactions with him throwing around this word broke, I was like, babe, what is your definition of broke? Because I think we both understand the word broke and we can spell it, but obviously our personal definitions of broke are very different because every time you say that, I nearly have a heart attack because I think someone just cleaned out all of our accounts and that’s not the case. And yet you continue to say this. I’m so confused, right? And so he defined his definition of broke, which was clearly not my definition of broke.        


My definition was, do we have money in the bank? Can we pay our bills? Or are we having to call our parents to help bail us out? Or like, we want stuff from being homeless? Like, that’s not his definition of broke.        


That was not Toby’s definition. Toby was like, we need to have x amount of money just sitting over here in some random account doing nothing, just sitting there in addition to all our other stuff. Like, we just needed this money just in case. And I was like, okay, I didn’t know we needed the extra just in case account in addition to all the other stuff we have going on. But okay, thank you for your definition.        


Right? But once we were on the same team and I understood it, one, he stopped saying it, and two, I just understood, like, that’s a goal that we need to set because that going to provide safety for him and comfort. And he stopped saying that about us, but also provided comfort for me that if he did say it, that we had not been cleaned out, right? I shared that story one because it’s true and it was very funny after now it’s funny. At the time, I was like, what is happening?        


I just married this man. I don’t know what’s going on. But I want you to also be willing to do the same with your team. Like invite them if there’s something they say that does not align, instead of us becoming offended or on guard to say, you know what, can you tell me more about that? Right?        


Tell me more about what that means to you. And invite them to share more about maybe their experiences to see if together as a team, we can get to a level of comfort where they can support in whatever role or capacity you’re inviting them to do that in. And it’s also important that just because we share our words around our own ethics or values, our morals, that they mean the same things to our team, they may understand, right? They can read it or hear what you say, like, okay, that’s important, but doesn’t necessarily mean the same. So I’m inviting you to take those time, have those retreats, have those conversations, however you’re doing things in your business to really get to the crux, because this is an issue.        


And for many of us, that is not the reputation that we want to have, that we’re running a shoddy organization. That is not reputable, that is not trustworthy, that is not ethical. That’s just not how we want to roll. And for those of us that are in that camp, there are things that we can do to make sure that our leads, our prospects and our clients have a different experience. It’s going to take a little bit of work on our part.        


But it’s important that we do this so that when someone or if I should say if someone ever posts something or says something because I think that’s also the other part of the fear is that someone’s going to do something and we don’t want to live like that. We have our ducks in a row and the things that we say on the front end and our sales and our marketing and advertising and all of that align with the actual experience people have with our organizations and our teams. And it’s important that we do the work. We do the work internally, our own internal work, our own internal work within our organization. And then as we go out into the world to serve that, we can serve from that place of being ethical.        


Because the truth is there’s some stuff going on out here in these streets and some of the work that I get to do, I hear it firsthand, I’m like and it’s like, okay, notes to self, we won’t be doing that, right? So I know it’s happening, but I don’t want us to allow the fear that it’s happening and people are doing it. And even if those people seem to have a measure of success, leveraging those types of tactics doesn’t mean that that is the only way that we’re going to reach our own measure of success in our businesses. We do not have to adapt those standards in those ways.        


We can build amazing businesses that are successful by our own definition by continuing to operate in a level of ethics and integrity and honor and respect. So have those conversations. Take the time to really get clear. Check in with your team, because you may have said it, but that doesn’t mean it always landed right or it doesn’t mean it always landed in the same way. This is not a one time conversation.        


You’re going to have to continue to have these conversations. Look for ways to ensure that those things are infused in everything that you do in your organization, and that as you bring on new sales, team members or new people on your team arise to that occasion, that they understand that here, this is how we do sales. This is what the experience should be like even before people become our clients and anything else outside of that is unacceptable. We can set that standard. We can offer a different sales experience.        


We can shift the conversation that’s happening, and we can build successful businesses that do not require us to operate out of integrity. Have the conversation with yourself. Have the conversation with your team. Do the work necessary to make sure it’s infused in everything you do within your company. Remember, it’s not a one time conversation.        


And watch how things shift. So this is part one. I’m sure there’s so much more here to unpack, but I definitely wanted to have this conversation. As we kick off season three of The Straight Talk About Sales with Dr. Nadia podcast around ethical selling and building your business and respect for the decision making abilities of our prospects, this is Dr.        

            Nadia with another episode, Straight Talk About Sales. I’ll see you again soon.