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Integrity is perhaps our highest and most valuable human commodity. When we possess it, it can open many doors and keep them open. When we’ve lost it or don’t possess it as a known character quality, few people want to associate with us. Even criminals have strong codes by which they measure one another’s integrity. Regardless of what sub-culture we belong to, the Bible says it best: “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.”(Proverbs 22:1)
The very word integrity connotes soundness or oneness of being. In the physical world, elements have no additional “baggage” other than themselves. They are incredible in the sense that you will find nothing in them contrary to their fundamental essence. There will be no “surprises” within them. Elements, like spiritual character, are usually found where heat and pressure have stripped them of things which must be removed in order to find their true essence. Whereas compounds may be very useful, by their very form they are full of mixture. “Mixture” in human beings, spiritually speaking, is not considered desirable.
Indeed, whether its “street smarts” or “wise business intuition”, once mixture in someone is discovered, their credibility is suspect. In sales or client relationships, discovering “mixture” in someone usually means that relationships are either severed or reduced to merely “using one another” until it’s convenient to drop them. Integrity means truth with no hidden motives or unrevealed consequences riding along with it as extra baggage.
When it comes to sales, having our products, policies, personnel, and sales people full of integrity is non-optional if we want to succeed in the long run and, most importantly, represent God with a measure of accuracy. Sales integrity begins with the top company leadership, not simply with the product or people selling it, so let’s begin our discussion there.
Sales is About Believing in the Integrity of Our Company
When we are selling something we are really selling ourselves. When I teach that God builds relationally, I am not simply trying to sound “spiritual”. God really has set things up in the real world where people intuitively trust or distrust an idea or product based on their “gut reaction” to the people representing it. If they sense a lack of integrity, a feeling of duplicity, or simply unknown elements of “flaky-ness”, the game is over. That is why when we are selling something, we are not simply selling the product or the services. We are in fact selling everything that stands behind it. If we distrust those who are running the company or servicing the product, it will most likely show up in our presentation or follow through in some discernable way. If it doesn’t, we have become good “actors” and are on our way to a spiritual calamity that will spread into every area of our lives and all our other relationships.
You cannot sell a product properly if you don’t believe what stands behind it, even if the product itself is excellent. You are the company because relationally you are “selling” the reality of your confidence in what backs you up. Try and fake it, or sell it without revealing your concerns about the integrity of the management, name and reputation of the company, and sooner or later your clients will smell it. Our confidence in what we represent is our true product; the thing or service itself is but a mere reflection of the people and process that stands behind it.
Obviously, this is why it is so important to connect ourselves with organizations and people who have solid integrity and with whom we identify with deeply enough to truly “wear their name”. I am the organization I represent. I pray that this truth will sink deeply into us all and goes far deeper than simply our intellectual understanding of this concept.
If we find ourselves in a situation where we have an integrity problem with our organization, we need to follow a biblical pattern in dealing with it. First, and most important, we need to keep the people and the organization itself in regular, consistent, intentional prayer before the Lord. Remember that God answers general prayers generally, and specific prayers specifically. Ask the Holy Spirit, who is our prayer partner, to show us how to specifically pray effectively for change in the areas where change needs to take place (Romans 8:26). Obviously, this prayer work should involve our spouses, if we are married, and hopefully our pastors and closest spiritual confidant.
Secondly, we need to ask God for clarity of perspective on how to share our concerns with the right people where we work, in the right spirit, and touching on the critical issues, not the less important ones. Thirdly, we need to seek God again for His specific calling to work where we are working, or if and when we should move. In the case of leaving, if we should leave, we should ask God and our prayer partners for specific confirmation through circumstances.
God delights in showing His will through circumstances as the Bible amply demonstrates. If God says to us to, “stay put for now”, we can then represent the calling of God on us in the company with confidence even if we have reservations about the company itself. Wherever we work, we must be there on assignment from God in any case. Spiritual integrity demands that we live out of our being divinely commissioned and sent. This statement also requires deeper reflection and subsequent action. When we say “I am the company”, we should be stating both a conviction of divine placement and the ability to identify with our employer.
Sales is About the Ability to Personally Identify with the Integrity of What We Are Selling
We are not only the company we represent; we are the product or service we are selling. While Michael Pink has noted with depth and excellence that sales is about serving and listening, Michael and many of us also agree that sales is about integrous faith in the real value of what we are selling. I cannot sell what I don’t believe has the best value for the customer at the fairest price. As previously noted, my “acting” or “selling” ability can lead me into a world of problems if I don’t get help quickly.
What does it mean to “be” the product or service we are selling? Here are a few specific thoughts. Firstly, I must place the product or service on a “teeter-totter” of integrity with the core values which I hold myself accountable to. That is to say, does this product or service weigh at least equal to myself on the integrity scales of balance? Ideally, it might even carry more weight than I do, which can then leverage me up to a higher level as well. If it’s slightly lighter than me, but in an acceptable range, the question then becomes, “How can I leverage it up?” In either case, the issue is resolved and in process, and I can proceed to sell it with all my heart because my heart truly believes that our core values are equally yoked, which is a critically important principle (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Secondly, I must have confidence that the product or service has “staying power”, meaning that it will wear well over its period of service and actually increase in value because the principles upon which it rests are sound. Good advice, if it is biblical, grows in value over time. So should our services and products.
Thirdly, we should have confidence in our ability to deliver and service these products or services as promises. The ability to deliver is as much a part of the sale as the product or service itself. Few things in life are more frustrating than having a great product with insufficient resources to service it. The product and delivery must be seen as one unit; sales integrity demands it. A good salesperson has not closed the sale until the delivery and proper usage are complete. A great salesperson goes one step further; they create a loyal customer demand which manifests itself with the customer seeking them out in the future rather than the onus always resting with the diligent salesperson calling them!
You are the company and you are the product or service. The best possible example of this is Jesus. He is the company; He is the product and service. Buy into Him. You get both, and the value keeps going over time. As in all things Christ and the Scripture mold our business goals.
I rest my case.
By Dennis Peacocke. This article originally appeared in the September/October 2005 edition of Business Reform Magazine.