The rise of ethical selling in the wake of the banking royal commission

sales meeting

Selling is a hot topic, especially the louder calls for more ethical, fairer, purpose-driven business and selling practices.

Given the recent findings from the Australian banking royal commission, and the increasing transparency highlighting various unethical, immoral and unsustainable business and sales practices across the collective value chain, the rise of an ethical purpose-driven selling methodology is making its way into mainstream consciousness.

This shift got us revisiting a white paper we published in 2013. We wondered if there were enough significant changes in the last six years to warrant an update and revision. And there are.

There have been various changes in sales and business that have shaped our world for good and for bad. What is clear is that our choices have consequences. It is also clear that ethical selling is not a new phenomenon.

A major milestone in sales methodology development took place in 1916 when the first World Salesmanship Congress took place in Detroit (USA). Its constitution vowed the event was to “promote the dignity of salesmanship by the elevation of the rank of the salesman to a higher plane” and to “encourage contributions to the science of salesmanship in the form of books, lectures, courses and publications”. The idea for the event came from DM Barrett (no relation that I know of), who was the editor of Salesmanship magazine and who had already organised a sales club in Detroit with the slogan “business betterment through betterment in salesmanship”.

Interesting that 100 years later my company, Barrett, is promoting the same ethos with our selling better movement. But I digress.

The keynote speaker at the above-mentioned congress was Woodrow Wilson, USA president at that time. Here we can see how individuals and organisations made the first attempts at making sales a more prestigious career and also at giving sales a rightful place within businesses.

Patterson (NCR) was one of the major sponsors of the World Salesmanship Congress. The sales methodology being promoted then, as the most effective of the day, and the message given to the more than 3000 salespeople who attended the congress, was that to be effective salespeople needed to build trust with customers. Earning and keeping the customer’s trust, attendees heard, “was the only way to promote the dignity of salesmanship, elevating the salesman to a higher plane”.

How ironic then that today’s lessons are all about restoring trust as an essential component of sales and business in this trust-deficit world. After all, trust is the heartbeat of business.

Revisiting and updating our white paper raised and answered a number of questions.

    • While selling is ubiquitous in our daily lives, when and where did selling become recognised as a profession?
    • Was selling always seen as a negative profession? If not, what created this negativity?
    • Is the evolution of selling a linear progression that leads us to where we are today, or has it moved off on different tangents over the years, for different reasons, with different outcomes — intended or otherwise?
    • Which sales methodologies actually work and deliver sustainable, viable, win-win, profitable results?
    • Has successful selling really changed over the last 80 years? If so, how and how much?
    • Do the latest methodologies really represent a revolution in selling? Or are these new models, with intriguing titles characteristics, behaviours and roles simply a re-definition or regurgitation of the old ways of playing the same game?

It’s natural that sales methodologies evolve — new times, new rules, new systems and models require different ways, different skills and even different frameworks — but it’s important to be aware some methods are just a re-packaging of previous models and not shiny new toys that will work miracles.

Claims for new and different sales methods are not new. They have also not always resulted in success in selling. That is not to say that new sales methods and techniques aren’t relevant or even critically important. They are. It’s just that corporations, sales leaders and salespeople themselves, let alone captains of industry, should not allow themselves to get caught up in the hype often generated by pundits promoting their own ‘new’ sales methodologies.

You can download the whole whitepaper here.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

NOW READ: “The leads are weak!”: How telling just half the story can convert leads to sales

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