Sales Ethics Research Paper

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Marketing is a multi-faceted discipline within business that incorporate a wide number of theories, philosophies and techniques. All are geared towards a simple objective -- to increase sales. This paper will examine some of the key issues in marketing today. These include the relevance of sales people using a push strategy, ethics in advertising, public relation and publicity and the expectations that a business might have of a sales professional. The essay will conclude by summarizing the key points and providing some final thoughts.

Push Strategies and Salespeople

There are typically two kinds of marketing strategies, the push and the pull. While both have the objective of winning sales, they differ in how the potential customer is approached. In a pull strategy, the customer is enticed or drawn in. This can happen any number of ways, but ultimately the point is that the company is seeking to attract the customer and entice the customer to do business with the company (Robertson, 2014). A push strategy is the opposite. The role of the marketer or sales person is not to entice the customer into seeking out a purchase or more information, it is to simply push the product into the customer. Adaso (2013) notes that push marketing is about devising ways to place products before prospects and get them to buy. Push marketing involves direct communication with the consumer, while in pull marketing the communication tends to be indirect in nature.

If a push strategy is being utilized, then the company must consider having sales people. Some push strategies do not require direct sales with people. A good example of this would be a mail-out, like direct mail or spam email. Such techniques are direct in nature, but do not require a human sales person. For many other products, the human sales person is essential. A salesperson tends to be necessary under a few different conditions. Product is one of those conditions. There are a number of product traits that correspond with the need for personalized sales.

One trait that is highly correlated with personal sales is high involvement products. McNamara (2014) outlines consumer involvement theory. High involvement products are ones where the consumer requires a lot of information and deliberation in order to make the purchase. Low involvement products are the opposite. An example of a high involvement purchase would be a car or vacation; a low involvement purchase would be a pack of gum, or the decision to buy another beer at the bar. Sales people can be used for both high and low involvement purchases, but arguably they are more important with high involvement purchases for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that with high involvement purchases, the consumer needs to gather a lot of information and process it. The salesperson for such products can be the provider of this information. As gatekeeper of information, the sales person has a high degree of influence over the sales process. An example of this would be with investments, where the sales person has such influence and the stakes of the investment are so high that the sales people have to be licensed in order to sell investments. The same is true of realtors. There are other products and professions that do not have this level of regulation, but nevertheless serve this role as the gatekeeper of key decision-making information.

The second reason for the salesperson in the high involvement context is to drive the customer towards a sale. This is self-evident if the company is using a push strategy. The reality is that with high involvement purchases, the customer is often seeking information and then might want time to fully process that information. What happens, however, is that this represents a lost sales opportunity, especially if the salesperson has already invested time and effort in the information gatekeeper role. Thus, the sales person needs to take the customer and push them towards making a decision, in favor of the sale of course. This role therefore capitalizes on the goodwill built during the sales process and the mindset of the customer, by moving the customer directly from information-seeking to sales.

There is another time when sales people are recommended, and that is for certain low involvement purchases. Again, the type of product will affect the necessity of the sales person. For example, a jug of milk is a typical low involvement purchase that generally does not require a sales person. It is more for the discretionary purchases that a sales person can be beneficial during the low involvement product sales process. The example of the extra beer at the bar is pertinent here. The bartender acts as the salesperson, pushing the extra beer on the customer. The customer probably was never going to think about it too much, and just decide to have another or to leave based on instinct. The extra beer probably does not have too much utility, and a rational customer might not bother, but because it is a low involvement purchase the tiny bit of thinking that might be required to make this decision is essentially made by the salesperson for the customer. You can see the same thing at a market when the vendor is selling kitchen gadgets. They are pushing the product on the customer with the intention of making that a low involvement decision. Reducing the effort the customer puts into the purchase research is one of the major roles that the sales person has, but again it is very much product dependent as to whether the push strategy from a salesperson is going to be useful or not.


It is important for salespeople to operate within a code of ethics. Most companies have spent time and energy building a brand, and they wish to preserve that brand value as much as possible. Unethical sales practices might win more sales in the short run but in the long run they can be very damaging to the company's brand. Thus, a code of ethics for sales people provides adequate ethical guidance for their actions and essentially preserves the brand value of the company and the reputation of the sales people themselves.

The Direct Selling Association (DSA) provides ideas for a code of ethics for its members, and these are applicable across most industries with respect to sales people. Any good code of ethics for salespeople should include the following sections: deceptive practices, terms of sales and warranties, privacy, pyramid schemes, inventory and earnings and payment of fees. These are all important in their own way. The first item, regarding deceptive practices, is very important. Trust is a key element of sales, and when salespeople lie or deceive they ultimately damage trust. There are often laws that allow consumers to return goods or void sales within a certain period of time, so it is important as well that the customer feels good about the sale in order to avoid this. But if a salesperson lies to a customer then what happens is that reflects poorly on the entire company. Not only is that salesperson seen as unethical but the entire company is for having employed that person. This is exactly why you need a strict and specific code of ethics. Honesty is also important when representing warranties and terms of sale -- these must be described accurately otherwise the customer may have legal complaint.

Privacy is a key issue these days, and customers need to feel that their privacy is valued by the company. This is why the privacy policy must be part of the code of ethics, so that all employees of the company but especially the salespeople are quite well aware of the importance of privacy. Pyramid schemes are of course illegal but in some push businesses there is the temptation to run your territory that way. Lastly, fudging things like sales or inventory levels is illegal, so that also needs to be highlighted in the code of ethics -- all financials should accurately reflect the financial condition of the company or the work that the salesperson does.

Public Relations, Publicity, Advertising

Public relations, publicity and corporate advertising are three different concepts within marketing, but they are all related. However, it is important to understand the differences between them. While there is temptation to view public relations and publicity as the same thing, this is not true. They are different. One way to understand the difference is that publicity is something that the company does not control -- it is exposure in the public sphere, but the company does not necessarily have control over that dialogue. This is in contrast to public relations, which reflects the specific actions that the organization undertakes to affect how it is perceived (Walquist, 2013).

Advertising is different from either of these. One of the key distinctions is that the company pays for advertising (Cuclis PR, 2011). The company also has full control over the message, how the message is transmitted and has a lot of…[continue]

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