How Sales Really Work: Integrity in Sales

Sandra Serkes, an entrepreneur with over twenty years of experience, continues her discussion on how enterprise sales really work, this time focusing on Integrity.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Last week, I discussed how competence is an integral component in how to make sales. Read here for details about knowing your customer and your solution, being ready with exemplars and following up. This week I want to discuss the second important element of sales: Integrity.

“Integrity is making sure that the things you say and the things you do are in alignment.” — Katrina Mayer

Whereas Competence can be summed up as knowing what you sell, Integrity means knowing who you are. Are you an expert or a novice? Are you outgoing or reserved? Is your company an innovator or follower? Where are the boundaries of what’s possible and not possible with your solution? Most importantly, how will you represent your organization and conduct yourself in a business discussion?

  1. Be honest. Are you out of your league on some of those technical or financial questions? Then say so, write down the issues, and offer to get answers and/or bring in others who are more knowledgeable. By contrast, are you an expert on a particular topic? Then don’t be shy — put that out there and let them know what a superstar they’ve got in you. You might literally be the best person in the world to speak to an issue and they should know it.
  2. Work in the client’s best interest. Is the client very concerned about costs, timeline or exposure? Be the client’s advocate and design solutions that address their concerns, without having to cut unfair corners for you or your organization. Example: “I know cost is an issue, so I was able to get the tier 3 support for the tier 2 price for you for the first year, if you agree to a 2-year deal.”
  3. Setup an open dialog from the get-go. Most Business-to-Business (B2B) selling situations arise because someone in the client organization “gets it” and has brought your solution or approach to the table. That person is your mentor and ally and you should aim to work together to sell the rest of their organization. It’s going to be a long sales cycle, set up weekly calls to review progress, issues and obstacles. Together, design key deliverables and metrics that will help get the message out to allay concerns. Examples of tasks and deliverables to build together: an ideal implementation scenario, a realistic ROI, technical diagrams, and competitive matrices.
  4. Go to sleep with a clear conscience. In other words, conduct yourself professionally, even if it means saying, “No” to a client, your colleagues, or your boss. It’s not a popularity contest and it’s not about short-term gains. If you act in accordance with your own moral principles, you will always be operating with integrity, by definition.

Integrity is critically important in enterprise sales, but it is not enough on its own. Integrity without competence is like eagerness without experience — a recipe for getting hurt. Work to develop both sides of the sales compact, competence + integrity, and you will be in a strong position to work with and influence others.

Armed with a strong sense of who you are and what you sell will pretty much guarantee competence and integrity. Now, get out there and sell!

Sandra E. Serkes is President & CEO of Valora Technologies, with an extensive background spanning over 20 years in entrepreneurship, software marketing, product management and corporate strategy, particularly in information governance, predictive analytics, document data mining and processing, computer telephony and speech recognition.

A graduate of Harvard Business School and MIT, Ms. Serkes is a frequent industry speaker and panelist. Ms. Serkes serves on the boards of several technology and analytics start-ups and was named a 2006 “Woman to Watch” by Womens’ Business magazine.

Since the fall of 2015, Ms. Serkes has served as Adjunct Professor to the Columbia University School of Professional Studies, Information & Knowledge Strategy Program, where she lectures on “Solving Information Governance & Knowledge Management Problems with Pattern-Recognition Technologies & Predictive Analytics.”

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