“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Warren Buffett
The phrase “Eight is Great” was a mantra for Wells Fargo from the CEO on down. The targets were daunting. Every customer was to have eight bank products. Wall Street and shareholders were transfixed and came to expect even more impossible results quarter after quarter.
The controversy upended lives, shook the bank and destroyed trust. Leadership looked the other way, management pushed too hard, and reps took short cuts. Short cuts led to deceit. Deceit led to fraud.
Sales is as exciting as it is dangerous. You negotiate the deals, bring in the revenue, and own the relationship. Sales is also the most high risk and high stress of professions because it boils down to the number. The expectation for earnings drives the revenue number which sets the quota at every tier of the sales organization.
Incentives drive behavior. It starts with revenue goals and quotas. That can lead to activities that live in the ethical gray area. When you mix intelligence and ambition in an environment with no boundaries, the gray area takes over the culture. Think Enron, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the litany of past corporate scandals.
Integrity is the cornerstone and foundation of professionalism. That is especially true in sales where trust is our currency and credibility can be fleeting. Even small lies or misstatements can create huge rifts.
Integrity begins with you and your actions. We all have that voice inside our head that causes us to pause when we come to an ethical dilemma. Listen to it, pause, and think about the consequences. If you are still unsure, talk it out with someone. But in my experience, when the question pops up in your mind, it is a clear signal.
Even if you do right, what about the company you are employed with? The environment matters. If your company signs deals at the “35th of month”, if harassment goes unchecked, if “customer first” is more a punchline than practice, you do not want to be guilty by association. You are better off working somewhere that respects ethics.
Live a life of integrity, all good things in life & sales starts with that one principle.