Greed Has Damaged Our World—We Need New Sales Ethics
We can easily see, and it is shown by the Austrian School of Economics, that trade (and therefore sales) has a peacekeeping component. If two parties, or two countries, are engaged in trade, it’s impossible to engage in conflict or war. If we’re going to proceed into a successful, happy world, sales must have an ethical factor to keep it at this level. This isn’t a new concept—we can say that the majority of traders in the past have been ethical.
But we can’t be blind to the fact that trade has also been used harmfully. An age-old example is a slavery, which goes as far back as Ancient Rome and Egypt. Ancient Rome required 300,000 – 400,000 new slaves every year, which helped create a major slavery industry at the time. Slavery carried forward into the importation and sale of African slaves from the 16th to the 19th centuries and unfortunately is still with us in the form of human trafficking. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally.
In trade, it’s not profit that motivates people to engage in such dealings, for there’s nothing wrong with profit itself. Nor is there anything wrong with money in itself. No, it’s the underlying mindset—which is greed. Greed means not caring what effect your product or service is having on those it is sold to, or on those, it is used upon. In addition to the example of slavery, others are drug dealers and dealers in weapons of mass destruction. Another example is the selling of goods that are unhealthy, such as GMO foods or those containing high fructose corn syrup.
If more salespeople engaged in a more ethical form of sales, we could bring about a better society. How might this be accomplished? To start with, we could reduce the number of harmful products being sold. Even reducing these by a couple of percentage points, we would have a different world. Note that I said, “the number of harmful products being sold.” We cannot change the harmful products being produced, but we can change our minds to not sell these products. On an individual basis, a salesperson can certainly decide to sell products that are beneficial instead of harmful.
It is greed that has motivated people to make a quick buck while setting aside ethics—therefore it is agreed that we must somehow solve. If we don’t, we’ll never rid ourselves of harmful sales activities.
Opposite of Greed
In contemplating a solution to this problem, let us first look at its opposite. What would be the opposite of greed?
The opposite of greed is generosity.
The sharp difference between the two is demonstrated in one of the biblical parables that Jesus used as illustrations, called the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. I’m going to retell the story in more modern terms.
In this story, a man had accumulated an enormous amount of debt to another, very rich person. The debtor could not afford to repay this debt, and he was very frightened of losing his home, his family, and all his possessions. The wealthy man to whom the debt was owed ordered that the debtor be arrested and put in prison, and his home and possessions were taken to repay the debt.
The man who owed the debt fell down on his knees and begged the wealthy man to please forgive the debt. The wealthy man was so affected by the debtor’s pleas that he took pity on him—he forgave the entire debt, and let the man go free.
Upon being freed, though, the man went to an associate who owed him money and demanded its repayment. When the associate couldn’t pay, the man had the associate arrested, to be imprisoned until the debt could be paid. Hearing the news of this occurrence, the wealthy man who had originally been owed money was outraged, rebuking the man for not forgiving the debt as the wealthy man had done. The wealthy man reversed his decision and had the original debtor put back into prison, to remain there until the debt was paid.
This profound story speaks to the stark difference between greed and generosity.
To an extent, sales have been motivated by greed, which has been partially responsible for sales having a bad reputation. This reputation has been portrayed in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and series such as Billions.
Throughout the ages, the attempt has been made to reform greed through punishment. Through a wrong understanding of faith, many religions have even told us that greed would be punished by the loss of eternal life. These tactics have obviously not worked, as greed is still very much with us. But if we don’t learn how to overcome greed, we won’t survive as a society.
How can greed be reformed in a more positive fashion? Well, let’s take a look at another very interesting statistic: It is said that today, 75 percent of people don’t have meaning in their lives.
If a person was able to find meaning in their life, this could certainly eliminate and replace greed.
Meaning feeds right into a person’s being—and in fact, it could be said that meaning is right at the core of being. Only finding a new form of being, one with real meaning, will bring about change.
Real meaning can bring you through the roughest of times. It was meaning that allowed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl to survive Nazi concentration camps and to create one of the best-selling books ever, Man’s Search for Meaning, chronicling how meaning brought him through his harrowing experiences.
What kind of meaning do we need for sales? I’ve already started it, and I’ll state it again: the most positive functions of sales are to produce wealth and create pace. That is the meaning for sales.
Look around us in the current environment. We obviously need peace, and we need to rebuild our wealth. Hence, ethical sales are sorely needed. A core component of ethical sales is altruism. In our networked community today, it’s easier to sell an ethical product or service for which there are great user reviews, than one which is unethical which few to any would actually recommend. Because there are more people buying an ethical product, you have a broader network and therefore more sales.
As we went over a moment ago, real meaning ties into being. Going further, from being springs a demonstrated preference. This doesn’t mean an expressed preference such as an opinion, but a demonstrated preference, otherwise known as action. Through their actions, a person is known. A negative example of demonstrated preference is the recent rioting. It’s a bad action, but it actually demonstrates a new form of being. They’re not just talking about it, they’re really doing it.
Your demonstrated preference is clearly shown in your daily activity. If you really want to change things for the better—instead of, say, unlawful tearing down monuments and causing destruction—you can certainly show it through your actions.
Salespeople have a higher calling. When they follow it, they bring additional value to society through the demonstrated preference of their peacekeeping component.
Put another way, what would happen if you treated your prospective customer as you would treat yourself? If you sold them something that you truly would, yourself, purchase? It would be a win-win scenario.
Coming out of our current situation, we have a magnificent chance of changing some fundamental behaviors and structures. Let’s do it.