SALES

Why Your Customers Don't Trust You

A startling number of Wall Street execs say success requires illegal and unethical behavior. No wonder customers are wary.
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I've always been a huge proponent of the idea that sales is about telling the truth in order to help people.

This means admitting, when appropriate, that what you're selling is a bad match.  This also means selling less when it's in the customer's interest, rather than selling more in order to pad your quarterly report.

Unfortunately, that's not how some people think, especially in the financial services industry.  A recent survey of 500 Wall Street executives revealed that a quarter of them actually believe that success in their industry was only possible when people engaged in "illegal or unethical" practices.

Now, the vast bulk of what goes on in the financial services business is essentially buying and selling. So what those executives are saying is that, in order to be successful, salespeople should be ready, willing, and able to lie through their teeth--especially when screwing over the customer creates more profit for the firm.

Toxic Culture?

Frankly, I'm astounded and appalled to see that this kind of thinking still exists in the business world.  I thought that this kind of "screw the customer and move on" thinking was jettisoned way back when carnival barking went out of style.

All I can conclude is that the financial services industry has gotten so out of whack, and so completely deregulated, that it's generated a toxic culture that both encourages and requires criminal behavior.

The way I see it: God help us if this kind of thinking spreads to the rest of the business world.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.

IMAGE: BigStock Photo
Last updated: Jul 11, 2012

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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