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Examples of Unethical Sales Practices and How to Avoid Them

Selling is a crucial part of any business, and when done ethically, it can be a powerful force for change. However, there are times when salespeople and companies resort to unethical sales practices that can harm their customers and damage their reputations.

In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common unethical sales practices and provide quick tips on how to avoid them so that you can build trust with your customers.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of what it means to sell ethically and how to do it effectively.

Common Unethical Sales Practices

Let’s talk about a few common unethical sales practices:

  1. Selling customer data inappropriately – Companies can make a lot of money selling your data, and that’s a big problem if they haven’t gotten your permission.
  2. Negative marketing against competitors – Sometimes, in an effort to make themselves look better, a brand will say negative things about a competitor to make them look worse, even if those things aren’t true.
  3. False advertising – A brand might lure you into interacting with them online by claiming that they’re running a sale that they really aren’t, sharing false statistics, or making misleading statements about what their product or service is capable of doing.
  4. Hiding technical issues – For example, many companies are required by law to notify customers of any data breach, but some won’t do that promptly or effectively.
  5. Fake social proof – Brands will sometimes pay for reviews or offer free products in exchange, which gives consumers an inflated perception of the quality of that brand.

Examples of Unethical Sales Practices in the Real World

Volkswagen auto grille and logo

Here are some notable examples of huge companies that engaged in unethical sales practices that made news:

  • In 2016, Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for opening more than 2 million fraudulent accounts without customers’ consent. The company had set unrealistic sales targets for its employees, leading to unethical practices that harmed customers.
  • In one of the most infamous examples of corporate fraud, Enron used unethical accounting practices to hide its debts and inflate its earnings, leading to its collapse in 2001 and the loss of thousands of jobs.
  • In 2015, Volkswagen was found to have installed software in its diesel vehicles that cheated emissions tests. This led to false claims of clean diesel technology. The company faced billions of dollars in fines and lost the trust of its customers.
  • The makers of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, were accused of downplaying the addictive nature of their opioid painkiller and misleading doctors and patients about its risks. This led to the opioid epidemic in the United States, causing widespread harm and loss of life.
  • The blood testing startup Theranos was accused of fraudulently claiming that its technology could diagnose a wide range of illnesses with just a drop of blood. The company’s founder, Elizabeth Holmes, is currently facing criminal charges for wire fraud.

Read also: Upselling Techniques: 10 Secrets to Skyrocket Your Sales

Four Ethical Sales Behaviors to Practice

Now, let’s talk about four ethical sales behaviors that you can practice:

  1. Address problems quickly and thoroughly – If you make a big mistake, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Take ownership of it, share your plan for rectifying it, act on it, and follow up.
  2. Compare yourself fairly – If you want to show how you measure up to the competition, pick a brand that’s comparable to yours, not one that’s clearly in a different league.
  3. Be transparent and truthful – Avoid inflating your numbers or making false promises, because the truth always comes to light. Consumers will appreciate that you keep it real.
  4. Lead by example, company-wide – This isn’t just about sales. If you want people to know you as an ethical brand that they can trust, then this needs to happen across every department. Share this with your audience so that they can see that you truly care even when they’re not around.

TL:DR — If you’re not interested in reading, here’s a video version of this blog post:

Conclusion: Ethical Sales as a Foundation for Success

Practicing ethical sales is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Unethical practices might get you quick results, but they can damage your reputation and long-term success in the industry.

By focusing on transparency, honesty, and integrity, you can build strong relationships with your customers. Remember, ethical sales practices are not a restriction on your sales technique, but a foundation for building a successful sales career.

If you need help managing all of your sales initiatives and campaigns, EngageBay is here to support you. EngageBay is an all-in-one sales, marketing, and customer support software designed specifically for solopreneurs, agencies, and small businesses.

If you have any questions, just drop a comment, and we’ll get back to you.

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