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Where Does a Salesperson Find Ethics?

Here is the next in my series on salesperson fitness.

Sales ethics is the subject of many books, and the subject of chapters of yet other sales books. It’s something that many experts think every salesperson needs to worry themselves about. And so they should! But I don’t think they should worry themselves about it in the way that these books spell out, and I think that the subject may be far simpler than many sales experts would lead you to believe.

The Spirit

Before we get to ethics proper, first I need to address a part of the human being that some people don’t even believe exists: the soul, or the spirit. Some say that you have a soul or spirit, and yet others claim that you actually are a soul or spirit, inhabiting a body. I only mention that in passing, as it is well beyond the scope of a book on sales.
Whatever name you give that part of humanity–the soul, the spirit, or many other names given by different religions throughout time–one thing is clear: human beings possess a factor that is beyond the simple flesh, blood and brain.

Native Knowledge

This part of you–and for the sake of brevity, we’ll call it a spirit–has a native knowledge. There are actions that you simply know are wrong without someone telling you. For example, having sexual relations with a parent. In any nation or race, this is forbidden.

Why? Because no matter your nationality, creed or religion, there are deeds that are considered wrong by a person’s consciousness, the spirit. There is an awareness of these things, and you can tune this awareness almost like an instrument, making it more sensitive or less sensitive to proper conduct. Some say you can even kill off this sensitivity; how else could someone be a guard in a Nazi concentration camp, for example? Or commit premeditated murder?


There is a core component of humanity, part of this spirit, that is even demonstrated by chimpanzees. It is called altruism.

Altruism can be defined as the action of giving or caring for someone without any expectation of a return action or assistance. Real altruism is when you live in a neighborhood and consider all your neighbors your friends. Or (in the old example of a Boy Scout) you help an elderly person across the street. Or when you pick up something a stranger has accidentally dropped, and hand it back to them. In any of these cases, you expect no immediate return in kind.

In sales, such an action would be the assistance of a potential prospect without any expectation that the prospect “will one day bring me this great opportunity.”

When we speak of altruism, we’re talking about a part of the spirit. It leaves behind the “super ethics” of sales as taught in books, because people already know it.

Listen To Your Inner Person

As has been pointed out by many philosophers throughout the ages, there is no absolute right and absolute wrong. In each case you must take into account the context, and judge for yourself. You must make decisions such as, “Shall I tell the truth?” “Shall I be open?” “Shall I be transparent?” “How far should I go in opening my books?”

The answers come out of your consciousness. You must listen to your own “inner person,” your consciousness. Salespeople must learn to listen to that inner person, for when they speak, you know exactly what is right. At the same time, neglect the “wrong” voices that might tell you to do the wrong things.

We all have different beliefs in God, or none. I personally believe that God lives in all of us, that there is a piece of God in each of us. There is a portion of creation in each person–otherwise how could we create? It is this same part of us that tells us what is good what what isn’t.

I do realize this issue isn’t necessarily so simple, and we’ll address it in its more complex form at a later time. But for now, this advice can actually get you through.

Taking Responsibility

Because we all have this innate knowledge, I don’t believe that ethics should be contained in a catalogue of “dos and don’ts” of rights and wrongs. I don’t believe this helps us.

Instead, people should strive to have their own self-consciousness and self-responsibility. Listen to that inner voice. We can’t simply preach right and wrong to people, because they actually do know it. Following self-responsibility means freedom, and only free people can make decisions.

Honestly, I feel that all the rights and wrongs published in sales books have been put there to try and make irresponsible people responsible. In fact, people simply need to grow up and become adults, become responsible for their own actions, and follow what they already know.

When a person commits a crime, there are consequences. Ultimately the state forces them to take responsibility for their actions. In sales, there are consequences, too, when a salesperson betrays a prospect or a customer. Especially in our totally connected world, that bad action is going to follow that salesperson for the rest of their life.

Taking responsibility means owning up to actions and not blaming others. That is childish behavior: “It wasn’t my fault!” “I didn’t know!”

An adult is someone who has learned to be responsible, and lives by the consciousness of their inner instrument, that inner voice. They haven’t become dull to it, but have tuned into it. That voice leads them to altruism.


Self-responsibility, responsibility for one’s actions and responsibility, too, for others, leads one to be free. In fact, it could be said that there is no other freedom.

Going back to the American Revolution, it can be seen that the freedom that they fought for was freedom for their communities. America, at that time, was composed mostly of tiny communities, in which people were responsible to themselves, to the group and to each other. If they weren’t responsible, they were expelled from the community.

Today salespeople live in a much larger, but likewise connected, community. In that context a salesperson must also be responsible, should have that consciousness of right and wrong, should have that sense of altruism. For that reason a salesperson must always be listening to that voice, and know what is right and wrong behavior in any given circumstance.

Because we are aware of this inner nature, we at Pipeliner have no catalogue of ethics. We do have core principles, such as “Learn from your mistakes.” These can be used as guidelines.
But ethics is something a person actually knows, and must follow. And because freedom has two sides–freedom and responsibility–taking that responsibility through ethics means freedom and success.


At the end of the day, the whole purpose of ethics in sales is the production of a result. Salespeople who follow an intrinsic ethical principle, altruism or consciousness, will be more successful in the long run. Simply being hammered with “dos and don’ts” in the end doesn’t bring someone up–only following a conscience does that. Following your own consciousness can be likened to following a flow forward, where trying to adopt a whole list of rules is like going against the flow.

Going with the flow is also using your altruistic instincts for the good of others in sales, whereas going against the flow would be the “old school” sales of being rude and pushy.

Pipeliner CRM empowers salespeople to follow their internal ethical voice. Download a free trial now.

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