GUEST: Faiz Al-Shabab, Co-Founder of Xentral Methods
Do ethics even exist in sales?
Well, yeah, but it’s not exactly full of ethics and integrity, right?
Contrary to popular belief, those who have the most ethics in sales attract customers worth having, because at the end of the day, people buy from people.
I got to talk to Faiz Al-Shahab, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Xentral Methods, about what it’s like to feel like the only one holding to ethical practices when everyone else is playing dirty.
At first Faiz didn’t know anything about ebooks. He just wanted to get out of manufacturing.
Now his company went from 67 titles in 2012 to about 80,000 now. With a market that competitive, it would have been easy to be a little unscrupulous in sales.
“In this terrain where you are against corruption, it's going to be a tough climate for you to do business if you've got ethics,” Faiz said.
“The truth is that if you're doing it the right way, this is the right speed for the environment that you are in.”
Ethics and Integrity: What Not to Do
“I was always brought up to believe that if you work hard, success will come to you,” Faiz said. “I was naive enough to believe in all of that.”
The commerce world of Southeast Asia in the last eight or nine years opened up his eyes.
“I do come across a lot of frustration over being defeated by all your competitors because of all the other, unofficial stuff that takes place,” Faiz admitted.
When you see your competitors winning because of the unofficial world, you start to question why you shouldn’t play that way, too.
It’s beyond tempting as a salesperson to talk someone into buying something they don’t even want or need.
“I look at a customer and a supplier relationship as a partnership,” Faiz said. “The supplier needs to understand what the customer needs and the customer needs to understand what the supplier can provide.”
That partnership should ensure that you come up with really good products and services. But when the supplier tries to overpromise and the client just believes it–you really have to question whether what you’re doing is right.
“In this terrain where you are against corruption, it's going to be a tough climate for you to do business if you've got ethics.”
How to Be Ethical in Sales
The truth is that it’s not always advantageous to be ethical.
“When you do something right, you’re probably going to lose out,” Faiz said. “You get more and more companies involved with all this dodgy stuff because they feel that having integrity doesn't pay off.”
When you do things the correct way, the process cycle becomes slow.
“The truth is that if you're doing it the right way, this is the right speed for the environment that you are in,” Faiz said. “Because if culturally things are slow, you have to move at that pace.”
That’s the right pace for your environment, not the speeded-up, rushed-promise pace that has no integrity.
“If you uphold a certain standard of integrity, then you tend to attract that type of client,” Faiz said.
Clients who also have integrity and standards are more valuable. If only because those who have integrity tend to be on time with invoice payments.
Faiz shared three ways to attract such clients by acting ethically in a tough landscape.
1. Invest in Young Salespeople
If you recruit someone with an abundance of experience in sales, they tend to have a lot of baggage. Some “legacy” habits.
“We normally try to train up fresh men, someone who just came out of university or college,” Faiz said.
That’s more realistic for achieving a salesperson with integrity, even if it can require a little more patience than seeking someone with more confidence.
“There is a difference if you train them up the way you're doing business, which I think is a very wise approach,” he said.
“If you uphold a certain standard of integrity, then you tend to attract that type of client.”
2. Have Common Sense
In team dynamics, it’s important to have goal alignment to have a good culture in sales.
“We'll attract the right sort of people, even though it takes a bit of time,” Faiz said. “Once they’ve gelled up as a team, it’s really robust. I know that they will do things according to what was planned.”
Basically, the team has common sense.
“What's more important is that people have common sense in making decisions and not just blatantly following the standard operating procedures,” Faiz said.
It’s ridiculous to treat standard operating procedures as the holy grail when they don’t make sense for the circumstances.
“In order to have common sense, you need to have a conscience. You, your team, your employees, your colleagues and all will need to be trained to have a conscience,” he said.
Which might take years but is worth all that time.
3. Sell Something That Matters
“At the end of the day, what are we selling? Are we selling things that can really help society?” Faiz asked.
If you sell something that matters, people will start to know that you are someone who is trustworthy.
As a whole, people do reject unethical sales and businesses without integrity. “Your mind and your conscious can take only so much of this,” Faiz said.
This cycles back to basic faith in people. “Give it five minutes, think logically, and that will give you the best answer,” he said. “That would give you the making tools that would lead to less regret.”
This post is based on a B2B Revenue Executive Experience podcast with Faiz Al-Shahab. To hear this episode and many more like it, subscribe to the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.