The “Golden Rule”, also known as the ethics of reciprocity, is often expressed as, “Do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you.” The golden rule message is a simple one: do the right thing. Doing the right thing is best for others and ultimately is best for you.

The world’s religions teach us about the power of reciprocity:

Hinduism – “Do naught unto others what you would not have them do to you.”
Confucianism – “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.”
Buddhism- “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Judaism – “That which is hateful to you do not do unto your neighbor.”
Christianity- “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Taoism- “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

Every day sales people have to make ethical decisions regarding the use of company assets, whether or not to moonlight, how to price a product for different customers, and how to manage company information. For the individual sales person, the difference between right and wrong is governed by their own personal code of ethics. This code is learned over time and reinforced by the culture in which he/she lives and works.

When it comes to business ethics, sales management must lead by example. This includes the level of sales pressure put upon a rep, decisions affecting territories and compensation plans, and speaking truthfully at all times. To insure this behavior, leader selection is important; managers must practice what they preach. Ethics must start at the top with the key sales executives creating an ethical sales climate.

Companies need to communicate the desired behavior. One of the best ways is to publish a code of ethics or a values statement. Google lists the firm’s company values on their website for all stakeholders to read (customers, vendors, employees, etc). Firms like Google must encourage whistle-blowing so they do not tolerate unethical behavior by any employee.

Ethics are “maintained” by the culture and the company, but they are mostly managed by you. This is the hard part for many. Ethics is about doing what is right when no one is looking.

The right thing is best.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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  1. John,

    The behavior of employees generally tends to reflect that of their supervisors or managers.

    Although I am not a sales and marketing professional, I would bet my bottom dollar that conduct and behavior of sales managers generally tends to flow through to the conduct of sales representatives.

    The conduct of sales representatives, in turn, is of particular importance to a company’s reputation as they represent the primary form of contact with the company from the viewpoint of customers.

    Therefore, it is particularly important that sales managers lead by example. If managers apply sound ethical practices in their own conduct, this will positively impact the behavior of sales reps and the company’s reputation. The reverse applies where the conduct of sales managers does not reflect sound ethical practices.



  2. Well said Andrew.

    As you work your way up the organization, executives must be the keepers of the code of ethics for the firm.


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