Honesty and Integrity in sales, is it possible?

I have been involved in marketing and advertising in one aspect or another for over twenty years and I have dealt with a myriad of sales people from multiple perspectives; as a buyer, as an employer, as a partner, resellers… you get the picture.  In all these years and in all the dealings that I have had one thing has become crystal clear over the years that most, not all, but most sales people that I have come across our fast talking, double talking, tell you anything you want to hear so long as the deal is closed and they earn a commission.

As the CEO of Throttle Media when I made the decision to create a blog and start writing articles I promised myself and made sure my partners and others knew that I would not be using the blog as a sales platform, because I believe that a blog should be a platform for distributing information and sharing the authors experience and wisdom on whatever the subject may be, not a platform for selling, there are already more than enough of those, we don’t need one more. I even wrote an article about this very subject last month (The Purpose of Blogging).  I say this to say that I am going to use my company as an example of honesty and sales, and I am doing this not in an attempt to sell anyone anything, but because I cannot think of a better example to use than my own company and my own experiences.

I have always believed that you can be honest and a sales person at the same time, and I have never liked fast talking sales people whether they were trying to sell to me or working for or with me. As one of the co-founders of Throttle Media I have worn many hats and still do, one of those hats has been selling and while today our target customer is medium to large size companies, it was not always this way, up until not too long ago a large part of our customer base was small businesses, from mom and pop type businesses to companies with up to ten employees.  Email marketing is a big part of the services that we offer to companies and when we first started selling I was on the phone with these smaller companies each and every day.  One of the problems with selling an email marketing campaign to a small company without much of a budget is results are usually dismal because most of the time they do not have the budget to create a campaign that will work for them, thus the reason we changed our strategy to medium to large companies.

Let’s say a typical client calls and wants to advertise within a 20 mile radius of their business and after taking their zip code and searching our database we find there are 750,000 consumers in their area.   I would probably recommend that they send to this 750,000 over the course of two weeks and recommend that they do this for at least 90 days changing the subject every two weeks because I believe in the 3+ frequency rule which research has shown that a potential customer must see your ad at least three times before they can recall a product or brand (Marketing IQ) and sometimes they need to see your product even more than that and many believe they must see your ad at least seven times before they will take any action, known as the “Rule of Seven”.   Well the client can’t afford what it will cost them to do a 90 day campaign, which in all honesty is small potatoes in terms of marketing; they can only afford enough to do a campaign emailing each of those 750,000 consumers once.  I would be honest with them and tell them that consistency marketing works best, they would always ask me what is the percentage of people going to the site, the click through rate (CTR) and I would answer them honestly, and the answer is it’s all over the board, some people get 20% going to their site, some get 1%, some get 10 hits and nothing else.  I would tell them that there are a lot of variables that have to be considered such as their ad, their product, their website, and so it is difficult for me to answer the question which is why you do a test campaign first.  That would be the extent of the conversation and they would purchase the one campaign and the results would not be good.  Well I wasn’t happy with this because after doing this for a while I noticed that the majority of our small clients were not getting decent results, with a few exceptions, so this was discussed in meeting after meeting and finally both myself and the other founder of Throttle came to the decision that while we were being honest we weren’t being honest enough.  Today if that same client came to me I would tell him bluntly that he was throwing his money away, it was a waste of time, that one shot advertising does not work and that while email marketing does have one of the highest ROI’s in the advertising universe it has to be done correctly and first you need to test the waters, and my definition of a test is doing a 90 day campaign, using the analytics that we provide to track subject lines, various ads, and in some cases text versus graphic email ads and determine what works best for you before rolling out a larger program. My point in telling you all of this is because I firmly believe that honest selling is not only the right thing to do it also works better.

One thing that I have learned over the years is when you develop a relationship with a client and you have a good rapport with them, in reality it you who they are buying not the product or service that you are selling.  I used to own a marketing company in Las Vegas and I made the decision to bring in a partner, which in the end was not a good decision, well after a while this partner decided he wanted all the business for himself, keep in mind I am the one who created all this business not him, so he started or I should say attempted to create deals on his own with our clients and offered them a much better price for the same service.  Every single person at every single company he tried to do this with called me, they were not interested in the better deal, because they had a relationship with me, and had for years, and they knew I was honest and that I always looked out for their best interests.  They could have gone elsewhere anytime, I was not the cheapest deal in town so to speak, but I was the honest one.  In an article at ezinearticles the author states” when a client chooses one sales person over another, what they’re really saying is that-other things being equal-they like one better than the other. Great sales records are built on likeability” (Beware of the Seven Deadly Sins Against Honesty in Sales). I could not agree with this more.

Because of this complete honesty in sales approach that we have taken at Throttle Media we sometimes lose a sale based on the honest information we have given to a potential client, and that’s okay, because when I go home at night I can look myself in the mirror knowing I did not screw anyone over and I am not kept awake at night feeling guilty.  Also, being honest will come back to you, because by being honest the person that was ready to spend a few hundred or a few thousand bucks will walk away with their hard earned money still in the bank feeling good that someone out there actually cares enough to put honesty and integrity above profit, and guess what?   Six months from now when that person is the new VP of marketing at the new company he works for and needs some email marketing or needs to purchase a list or to do a call center campaign, guess who he is going to remember and going to call?  Or when he is at a barbecue with his brother in law who owns several car dealerships and happens to mention that he is unhappy with his current marketing company, guess what he is going to suggest?  If you said “Call Throttle Media” than you were correct.

Every company has a value proposition which every first year marketing student knows is one of the Fundamentals of Marketing, and that value proposition can be about the product, the brand, or the company, at Throttle Media our Value Proposition is that we are an honest company with Integrity and my hope is that after reading this blog if you are not already an honest company or an honest salesperson that this article will motivate you to become one.   Regardless of what each of us is selling, we all have to live in this tiny little marketing universe together and if we can spread the doctrine of honesty and integrity in business the better off we’ll all be.

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About Joe Melle

Joe Melle has founded and ran several successful businesses, and has had an interesting career in direct contact media, call center operations, sales operations, customer service operations, customer retention, and quality assurance; he has written over 140 business articles, previously served as a part time adjunct professor for a university teaching business, marketing, and management courses to both graduate and post graduate students.Email Me