Is What You’re Doing Going Against Your Values?

Robert Terson

There are salespeople out there who are selling—or attempting to sell—a product or service that they don’t believe in, know is worthless, or even worse than “worthless,” harmful. Why they’re doing this is a blog unto itself; we’re going to mainly concentrate on how this action causes them great distress because it goes against their values, troubles their conscience. Those lacking a conscience, who sell a product or service that they don’t believe in, well, need a course in ethics, as well as a good therapist.

“John” works for a business-consulting company that uses a huge boiler-room operation to generate its leads. John’s job is to go out on these leads and sell the businesspeople on hiring the company to do “consulting” work. The quotation marks around “consulting” are used because this company couldn’t consult its way out of a paper bag. The “consultants” who go out to “consult,” after John has sold the job, are themselves salespeople, with little knowledge about what it really takes to improve the bottom-line of these businesses. In reality, it’s not a consulting business at all; it’s an unethical sales operation from start to finish. The fees are enormous and easily can run up into tens of thousands of dollars for little value to the unsuspecting businesspeople.

John knows this; he’s fully aware of the company’s—you should pardon the expression—business model. It troubles him. In fact, he has difficulty sleeping at night. The clients he sells, by and large, are not happy with the “consulting” job the “consultant” provides. He knows this. They call him and complain, ask how he could work for such a terrible company. He goes online and reads the endless complaints; there are hundreds of them. It’s gotten so bad that the Attorneys General of several states are suing the company. John’s friends ask him questions about all the bad publicity; it embarrasses him. It more than embarrasses him; it makes him want to take a slow boat to China and hide out forever.

John is a good man in a bad situation. He’s a man who deep down doesn’t believe in himself, is scared to go out and sell something else. He’s like the guy who can’t swim who wants to learn how, but just can’t bring himself to release that second foot from the bottom of the pool, dive across the water. He’s making great money; what if he can’t make that kind of money anywhere else? he asks himself—consciously or unconsciously. He’s fearful. He’s going against his values and it’s eating him alive, but…he can’t seem to bring himself to stop, head out in a different direction, an ethical direction.

John is a tortured soul.

In Chapter 4 of Selling Fearlessly, I said this.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and you don’t have to be exploitive to be successful. You’ll make more money and be a lot happier with yourself if you put the customer’s needs and welfare above your own and sell him only what you believe is in his best interest. You can be creative, help him make money where he couldn’t visualize the possibility, and be the leader in a win-win relationship, instead of a manipulative parasite.

Treat your role strictly as a fiduciary responsibility and you’re on the right path to selling glory. You won’t make every customer happy: some people you couldn’t please if you gave them gold bars, but that doesn’t matter, as long as you know you’re doing right by them, that you’re providing real value, that you’re a value-based salesperson.

What it comes down to is how you view yourself and others. Do you want to be worthy of respect or don’t you care? Do you have a conscience or are you devoid of one? Do you like people or see them as irritants, pains in the derriere? Do you believe in win-win or not? 

If it doesn’t feel like win-win, something is amiss. As Miss Margaret Sullivan—my grammar school librarian—used to say, “Let your conscience be your guide.”

If by chance you’re in a situation similar to John’s, now is the time to do something about it. Go sell something that will bring great value to people. Stop torturing yourself.


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