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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 27, 2013 • Issue 13:05:02

Ethics and sales success

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

Another industry professional and I were chatting recently, and the conversation turned to ethics. He said, "There are two distinctly different types of ethics: business ethics and sales ethics. Businesses have to remain ethical so that their value increases. But salespeople sometimes redefine ethics to make sales."

This reminded me of a conversation I had with a mentor years ago. He emphasized that sales ethics must be at the forefront; salespeople must consider their actions and the impact on future sales. "Gaining one sale at the cost of future sales isn't worth it," he said.

The challenge ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) face is that ethics can stop a sale. Since many salespeople are independent, the line between business ethics and sales ethics is not only blurred, but erased. How can MLSs be ethical and successful?

There is potential in every sale to fudge the definition of ethics. Examples include, "I didn't say we could do it; I just didn't say we couldn't." Or, "There'll be no difference in what he gets, but he'll be OK if I drop the price. He doesn't need to know I can't improve his product."

MLSs often straddle ethical and unethical behavior. Sometimes it's easy to avoid the unethical side. During sales cycles though, it can be more difficult. The choice may make the difference between closing the sale at the cost of your ethics, and losing the sale. Choosing the former option typically costs future sales. Worse, it can lead to a merchant discovering the truth and leaving. You lose sales and your reputation.

Sales success and ethics are compatible

Ethics and success need not be opposites. Simply follow these basic rules, and you'll see how well they mesh:

  1. Tell the truth: If a merchant asks for a product you do not have today, it is all too easy to say, "I can get that," and then hope you can. If you can't, you lose both the immediate sale and the merchant's future business.

    Other instances of lying are more subtle. I have heard the pitches: "In April the card brands changed their rates, which will affect you." It is true that rates have changed, but do you know if those pertaining to the merchant's business have gone up? Are you merely raising merchant fees across the board? The statement may not meet the definition of a lie, but it may not be truthful. This is when the path narrows and it becomes more difficult to stay ethical.

  2. Be willing to tell them no: Salespeople are taught they should never walk away from a sale. Yet there are good reasons to back away from a deal when you and your merchant don't have a fit.

    The challenge is seeing those reasons and acting on them. No one wants to lose a potential sale; sometimes it's easy to shave corners to fit a square peg into a round hole. But long-term cost in lost business and unhappy merchants outweighs short-term gain.

  3. Identify and address the merchant's needs: Identifying needs and providing solutions is the definition of selling. The challenge arises when the need doesn't include profitable add-on solutions.

    Providing a product clients will use is not wrong; added services can build a stronger bond and reduce attrition. However, there is a difference between adding a product they may want, and selling a product that they believe they have to buy.

    Ask yourself this question before pushing added services: Does selling this service benefit only me and my income? If the answer is yes, don't push it. Never imply that additional service is required unless it's absolutely true.

Our ethics are always under pressure, by both external and internal factors. Many in the business have succumbed to personal gain over ethical behavior and have suffered the consequences. Their short-term success may tempt, but avoid the temptation.

By remembering these three steps, the long-term success of your efforts will outweigh any short-term benefits derived from letting ethics slide. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

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