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Ethics in Selling: Where do you Stand?

Are there common activities in selling that are unethical? Of course, anything illegal is unethical. But what about for mainstream people who make their living selling?

Is persuasion ethical or not? (there are many posts at SP that imply it's not proper to be persuasive). Is it ethical to be likable to your prospects, or not? Is it ethical to sell something to someone if they don't "need" it? What about if they can't afford it? Is it unethical to negotiate, or to inflate your price, or to be assertive? Is it ethical to treat different prospects with different personalities differently? Is it ethical to "act" while you're selling? Is it okay to lie? How about a white lie? Is it unethical to cold-call someone at home during dinnertime?

Recently there have been posts at SalesPractice that have criticized these things with sort of a holier-than-thou attitude: timeshare salespeople, car salespeople, telemarketers, real estate agents, open-ended questions, sales trainers, closing a sale, marketers, handling objections, door-to-door salespeople, MLMers, insurance agents, etc. Do you think any of these things/people are unethical? If not, what is unethical?

What thoughts do you have about ethics and selling? (in your own career or others'). - by Skip Anderson
Skip my personal opinion is that Deception (intentionally misleading or providing untruthful information, any concealment, withholding information from participant, trickery, or deceit) is unethical.

I see nothing unethical about Persuasion (communication intended to induce belief or action), being likable, treating prospects differently depending on their personality, cold-calling someone at dinnertime.

Selling someone a product/service they don't need or can't afford? If this is the result of some sort of coercion or deception then I'd classify that as unethical otherwise not. - by Jeff Blackwell
I have struggled with that question quite a bit.

A part of me thinks that I will never feel right selling anything to a person who doesn't embrace what I'm selling with open arms. (Can an embrace be open-armed?) I have felt bad in the past for making a lot of money on a sale, or selling something to a person when I think they weren't making the best decision. I found that to be tough, especially with cars. I saw a lot of people get in really bad financial situations with cars, and sometimes I really didn't agree with the choice I was trying to persuade them to make.

On the other hand, I never do anything forceful or deceptive when selling! I don't make it easy for a potential customer to walk away from me, but at any time, they always have the right and ability to say no. In fact, I don't believe that a person can "be sold" something if they don't allow it.

That is why I feel that in order to succeed in sales, it is vital to believe in what you are selling. I know it is a little cliche, but it's very true. As long as you can stand behind your product or service, actually believing that it is as good as you are making it out to be, you probably won't run into any ethical dilemmas. - by jamesrobertstclair
I agree what others have said about deception, coercion and illegal activities being unethical. People buy items they don't "need" or "can't afford" every day. I give most adults the benefit of the doubt that they're mature enough to make their own decisions about what is right or not for them and don't consider that as unethical. - by Houston

I will never do anything illegal, unethical, or immoral, in sales, or in life in general, as far as treating people different, I always treat others with the same level of respect, however I believe in order to be successful you have to some what mirror your client, so one must be some what of a chameleon, would that be considered unethical? As far as acting, we all are actors to some extent, and we have to be some what persuasive, the buyers look at us as the so called "expert" and if you do a proper warm up/introduction with them, I find they value our opinion. Sometimes it can get overwhelming at best to them, is that immoral? I also never lie the only thing we have is our integrity, and once you loose that, you can never get it back, but we must ask open ended questions (simple yes or no questions during the investigation doesn't get the results), we need to get the customers engaged into the conversation, so we can uncover their wants/needs and base our presentation off that, what are your thoughts? This is a very good topic I am interested in what others opinion on this matter is.

~Mr. Cesario
- by Mr. Cesario
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