When we say “sales,” what do you think of? For many people, sales is a word with negative connotations. However, if you want to build a long-lasting business, you need to make ethics and integrity your highest priority.

Consequences of Unethical Sales Practices

“Whatever it takes” is a cry from sales and service people everywhere. For most, this means giving your best and doing everything you can to provide the customer with great value. However, doing whatever it takes to make a sale can lead to making wrong and unethical choices for the sake of profit and success. Whether this is through cutting corners in manufacturing, overpromising on what our product can do, or manipulating the emotions and choices of our customers to lead them into a bad or irresponsible purchase. The temptation to take advantage of questionable methods is a real temptation. While unethical sales practices can show short-term benefits, there are always long-term consequences or repercussions to our bad behavior.

Here are a few of those consequences:

Bad Reviews on Social Media

If we take advantage of people or serve them poorly, nowadays we are risking a bad review on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, our website, Google and wherever else we advertise online. People have more tools available to them today to express their displeasure over bad service or shifty sales. Our business benefits from high and positive online reviews and is hurt by overly critical reviews from people who had bad experiences with us. If we repeatedly make bad choices regarding our sales and service tactics, we may even have people call for a boycott on our products or services.

business integrity

Lack of Trust

Unethical sales practices will hurt the trust of our employees as well as our potential and current clients. Regarding our employees, if there is one or multiple people who are not following ethical standards, those workers who are trying to serve or sell in the right way will experience discouragement, frustration, and stress from the lack of consistency among the whole staff. If our employees see people getting ahead through crooked means, it will affect their motivation and morale. People won’t know whom to trust, and there will likely be large groups of our staff who will be giving much less than their very best.

Our clients will also lose trust in us if we take advantage of them. Even a small action such as inconsistent pricing, or a more significant issue like an unmet warranty, is likely to destroy the trust that we developed with our long-term customers.   

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth can be a great asset to our companies as we do good business through content clients recommending our services to their network of people. Similarly, negative word of mouth will also cause us great harm. If people feel cheated or taken advantage of by our company or salespeople, they will let other people know. Some say that for every bad experience someone has, they tell 11 other people about their frustration. 

There’s a high cost to unhappy people. Our wrong choices will never stay secret for long.

Destroyed Reputations

Unethical sales tactics can tarnish the reputation of both our business and also the industry we represent. There are undoubtedly many genuinely helpful car salespeople who are not merely looking to up-sell people outside of their price range so they can make as much money as possible per sale. However, since these were the practices of some people in the industry, others within the industry with good motivations to help and serve their customers are painted with the same brush as their unethical and self-motivated compatriots.

Infection

There may be a small number of our people who use sketchy methods when it comes to service. Once we become aware of them, we must do something about it. If we don’t, we risk the questionable manner of doing business spreading throughout our company. As unethical sales seem to provide quick success, others may adopt bad practices without questioning their validity due to the benefit they see others gaining from their actions. The longer we leave these sorts of sales tactics unchallenged, the more we will see them spread through our organization. What seems like small compromises in our ethics and practices can balloon into more severe and more frequent disregard for proper business standards and good relational behavior.

Lose Good Workers

Not everyone will adopt unethical sales practices, and not everyone will lose motivation at work. Some of our best people, those who have a strong moral compass along with a genuine interest in serving our customers and providing them with high value, will just leave. While we will see the turnover rates at our company increase, we will also struggle to bring in other high-quality workers as our reputation for ill-behavior will likely have spread to others who are looking for work.

Questionable Credibility

It’s possible for unethical sales tactics to be unintentional. Not all choices are made with our full awareness of their morality or goodwill. Intentional manipulation or misleading sales tactics will undoubtedly make anyone look bad if discovered. If, however, the unethical sales tactics are unintentional, as much as you can make excuses, your company will look inept and unaware of proper business standards. Regardless of how or why unethical sales tactics occur, the credibility of our companies is still at stake.

Legal Issues

There is a possibility, in some extreme cases, that unethical behavior can cause legal problems for us. There is the chance that an unhappy customer who feels taken advantage of will take legal action against our companies, seeking reparations or damages. As well, once one person or group of people has taken legal action against a company, more lawsuits are likely to occur in the future.

On top of civil lawsuits, there are laws and rules that businesses must follow when it comes to sales and violating any of those laws can cause significant problems. Any such incidents can bring fines, restrictions, and a loss of value for the company as a whole.

There is much more to lose than can ever be gained from unethical sales practices. Our questionable business actions have a way of coming into the light.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is simple: always emphasize the importance of integrity in your sales process and only ever sell (serve!) in the most ethical way possible.

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