I have taken the liberty of using Webster’s Online Dictionary to establish the foundational definition of the word integrity.
An undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting; "the integrity of the nervous system is required for normal development”.
Moral soundness; "he expects to find in us the common honesty and integrity of men of business"; "they admired his scrupulous professional integrity".
Moral soundness; honesty; freedom from corrupting influence or motive; -- used especially with reference to the fulfillment of contracts, the discharge of agencies, trusts, and the like; uprightness; rectitude.
I found this expanded definition of the word integrity to also be very helpful in understanding how it applies to the world of sales.
In discussions on behavior and morality, one view of the property of integrity sees it as the virtue of basing actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. This scenario may emphasize depth of principles and adherence of each level to the next. One can describe a person as having integrity to the extent that everything a person does derives from the same core set of values. While those values may change, their consistency with each other and with the person's actions, determine the person's degree of integrity.
In a very real sense, the only thing a salesperson can hang their hat on is integrity. Whether you sell a product or a service, the single source of true value is encompassed within the moral fabric of the salesperson. Integrity permeates the entirety of the sales process, every word, every action and every deed. Integrity cannot be turned on or off and it is not conditional. There are no degrees of integrity.
Here are several practical areas in which integrity should be applied in the sales process:
- Time and place: Integrity is being where you say you will be when you say you will be there.
- Knowledge: Salespeople have an implied, assumed and expected responsibility and duty to their customers to understand their products and services.
- Do what you say: If you say you will do something, then do it. Actions are the outward expression of integrity.
- Pure intent: The deliberate omission of facts, figures and functionality is just another form of lying.
- Purpose: The underlying purpose of every salesperson is to earn an income to support their family and lifestyle. Don’t allow your personal objective to obscure the intent of the buyer. Don’t sell someone something they don’t need.
- A day’s work for a days pay: Exceed the expectations of your employer. Accomplish more than is expected and you will reward not only yourself, but your employer as well.
- Help your customers find value: Not selling someone something they need is just as bad as selling someone something they don’t need. In both cases, the buyer is hurt by the actions of the salesperson.
- Don’t speak ill of your competition: Nothing positive is ever gained when built upon a negative foundation. Focus on the customer’s true needs and the value your product offers them in meeting those needs.
- Your words and deeds affect everyone around you: Your actions are similar to a pebble tossed into a pond; the ripples roll forth until the entire surface has been disturbed. In the profound, yet simple words of John Donne’s famous poem, we understand our relationship to others. “No man is an island, no man stands alone.”
- Apply the “Golden Rule”. This principle is found in the social actions of every civilized culture of the world. In all of your sales endeavors, “treat others as you would want them to treat you.”
In a profession wrought with suspicion and negative views, salespeople need to do all within their power to show the world that integrity does exist within the world of sales. Let the positive overshadow the negative and let honesty stand tall against deceit in all its forms.