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Is Selling Amoral?

In the recent post "What is a Sales Pro's Most Essential Character Trait?", I provided a list of fifteen possible character traits and asked Sales Machine readers to pick the one the thought was more important. There's now been more than a thousand votes, so I checked out the post to see how everyone voted.

The big winners were "Problem Solving" (19%) followed by "Interpersonal Relationships" (14%), "Empathy" (13%) and "Optimism" (11%).

However, the more interesting result is the big loser: "Social Responsibility" at 0%. Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- thought that the most important characteristic of a sales professional is "the ability to be a contributing and constructive member of your social group."

I find that fascinating because whenever I post something about religion and marketing, I get dozens of complaints from people for whom religion is clearly very important. Apparently, religion isn't having much impact on those people's expectations of their job performance.

So here's my question for you:

Please answer honestly. Nobody's looking over your shoulder; your answer can't be tracked back to you, so you might as well click on what you REALLY believe.

CLICK for my opinion on this issue »

If we're going to look at the real world, the correct answer, IMHO, is YES.
Note I'm not saying what SHOULD be true, but which is actually the case in the real world.

Selling is amoral because business, as practiced, is amoral. For example, I recently completely a project that involved studying and reporting on the Corporate Responsibility Reports of several dozen high tech firms.

All of those reports talked about the "help the world" stuff like diversity, labor conditions, helping the environment, etc. However, in EVERY case the logic behind "doing the right thing" was ALWAYS that doing the right thing would be, in the long run, more profitable than not.

Companies treat employees well because they'll get sued if the don't and that would cost more money than the extra productivity they'd get by working their employees to death. Similarly, the main reason that companies implement "Green IT" (energy efficient computing) is because it saves money.

I have yet to see a company, anywhere, do something that loses money because it's the right thing to do. There's ALWAYS an agenda, such as "it will be good publicity and we'll make even more money in the long run."

When it comes to selling, I see the same behavior. Most of the time, when people discuss whether or not to oversell a customer, or stuff the channel, or sell too much to a customer, the reason for not indulging in the behavior is that it will destroy your reputation.

Very few people argue that you shouldn't do those things because they're morally wrong. So it's no wonder that "social responsibility" is in the toilet when it comes to what sales professional value. It's really just a reflect of how the world works.

This is why, incidentally, the entire idea of massive deregulation is a horrible idea. The main function of government regulation is to increase the financial penalty for actions that are damaging to society at large.

There no question in my mind that, absent government regulation, labor laws, etc., most businesses would institute slave labor and completely pollute the world within decades.

Certainly many industries are perfectly happy to tolerate such things up their supply chain, as long they can pretend that they're not directly responsible.

Needless to say, none of this means that YOU need to be amoral. However, if you're going to refuse to make a sale because it might screw the customer or mess up the environment, you'd better come up with a sound financial reason why it makes sense to do the right thing, or you'll be out on your tail in a heartbeat.

READERS: Am I being too cynical here? I suspect I'm being influenced by the lackadaisical response that everybody seemed to have about the news of worker suicides at the Foxconn plant that makes iPhones. Seemed to me that more outrage was in order. But apparently not.