This past week I received an email from a sales rep who for the past two years has put up solid numbers in his job.
His question to me was what should he do when his boss and others in management ask him to cheat and put his integrity aside when it comes to dealing with customers.
It was obvious by the note that the salesperson felt genuinely challenged in knowing what to do. On the one hand, he could protect his job and go along with his boss and do what his boss told him to do or resist and face uncertain consequences.
I know you’re thinking the salesperson should just quit and go get a different job, but I’ll tell you from first-hand experience, that’s not as easy as it might seem.
The first sales job I had out of college was with a small family-owned company. When I got the job, I felt pumped! The pay was good and most of all I got a free car to drive!
Since I had been paying very high car insurance due to the number of speeding tickets I received while in college, the benefit of the car was huge. (Hey, I was only speeding because I never wanted to be late to class. What? You don’t believe that? You’re right!)
The pay and the car overshadowed in my mind what I began seeing early on. It didn’t take long for me to see family members in the company deceiving customers and subsequently bragging about it to other family members.
Yes, I struggled with what I was seeing and having to deal with and quickly realized there was stuff going on behind my back with my own customers. With each passing week, I was exposed to an ever increasing number of things that just didn’t seem right.
Challenge to me was the free car. I knew if I went to work for nearly any other company where I would be eligible for a car, they would do a background check and find out about my driving history. With that belief in my head, I continued working for the company, trying to justify what was happening around me as being not that bad.
I was compromising and going down a slippery slope.
After almost a year with the company and my stomach turning into bigger knots each day due to my struggle to validate my decision to work for the car, the big incident occurred. A family member, due to her lack of integrity, lost the single biggest account the company had.
To the family, the decision was simple. Fire the only salesperson who is not a family member and give that person’s accounts to her. You guessed it! I was the non-family member that got whacked.
Getting fired at the age of 23 from your first “big” job crushed my ego, but after I got past the emotional aspect, it was the best thing that could have happened. I was pushed into an uncomfortable position, but it forced me to get the right job.
Did things work out? Yes, and in a very fitting way. On the evening of the first day of my new job, I proposed to the person I’ve now been married to for 37 years. I guess things do work out when you play the long game.
Now, back to the salesperson who wrote me the email. My advice to him was simple — despite how much you may feel you need the job, you cannot allow your integrity to be compromised. For me it took a strange firing, but I’m glad it did, because I wonder how many more months I would have stayed.
Nothing if more valuable than your integrity and ethics. They impact everything you do both professionally and personally.
As for the family-owned ethically challenged company I worked for 37 years ago… I didn’t mention their name because they’re still in business. I suspect they are employing another generation of family members. I’ve had zero contact with them, so I won’t pass judgement. My only hope is they’re operating much differently than they did when I was there.
Feel free to drop me an email if you’re dealing with this issue. I’m always happy to assist others caught in uncomfortable situations.
Catch me also on LinkedIn, as I share a short video each morning on leadership and sales, and yes, many mornings it’s about this very issue of integrity.
A coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!
Copyright 2017, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results.