Whether you offer a service, or sell a product, the ultimate goal of any business is to make a profit, which means you must make sales.
We put a lot of time and money into resources to help us perfect the art of salesmanship. We read and study, attend sales meetings and seminars, practice sales pitches in the mirror, rehearse them in our heads…and are always on the lookout for something that will give us the edge over competition.
There is one thing that will give you an edge though. It is even more powerful than all the others combined….and it is free!
It’s a precious commodity that you should guard diligently, because you can lose it in an instant and it can be hard to get back. Can you guess what is it?
It is your integrity.
Without integrity, you have no trust, and without trust, sales are challenging to say the least. Being a person of integrity should be a top priority for anyone in business.
Let me give you an example of what integrity can do for sales. Imagine you are at a home schooling conference, looking for curriculum.
You have Vendor A, who has slick sales brochures in a pretty rack, a professional banner, and beautifully coordinated color scheme going on in her booth. She wastes no time telling you how her products are the perfect fit for every home schooling family. She skillfully highlights all the benefits and features, uses a classic close and waits for your response. You have some questions. She doesn’t handle them quite so well. You’re still a little confused and pondering it when another potential customer comes to the booth and you hear her use the exact same dialogue on him.
You walk off, feeling like a number….and notice Vendor B. Vendor B’s booth is standing room only, with a line of customers backed up around the corner. There is a steady stream of ka-chings on the register. You can’t see any color scheme for all the people and their banner is obviously homemade.
Just about the time you have taken in the scene, there is vendor B herself, asking how she can help you. She listens carefully as you explain your needs. She asks some questions to clarify a few points, then takes you by the hand and personally introduces you to each resource she recommends, continuing to ask questions and answer yours along the way. She sure does make you feel important. You can feel a genuine warmth coming from her.
Then she does something really weird!
She says, “Ya know what? I really do think that Product X would be a better fit for you than what I have available. But I know of the ideal resource! Let me take you over to Vendor C here and introduce you. She has just what you need.”
Do you think it is any coincidence that Vendor A was probably lucky to scrape by making a couple hundred dollars over the weekend…but Vendor B did 10K in sales?
That is a real-life example from back in the days when I worked home education conferences. Vendor A was there to make a buck, had studied all her sales materials, but lacked integrity. She left potential customers cold.
Vendor B was there because she loved to help people more than she loved making a dollar. For her, it was dishonest to sell somebody when she knew a competitor had something better. She followed her heart, made a huge sale, and has a fan for life. That fan is going to tell all her friends. At the next conference, the line is forming before they are set up. Vendor B is a person of integrity. People can feel it, and see it in her actions, as well as her words. They trust her completely and it shows in her profits. She is an example to learn from., a woman of integrity.
So, what exactly IS integrity?
That word conjures up thoughts of being truthful, keeping your word, not cheating on your taxes - pretty much a list of do’s and don’t’s for good guys. That’s all external stuff; the trappings. Integrity is a state of being. It is not what you do, but who you are… or at least, it should be.
When you are a person of integrity, all those do’s and don’t’s, all the external things that others mimic, flow out quite naturally. You don’t have to work at convincing others to trust you…it just happens. It just a whole lot easier and simpler to determine to be a person of integrity than it is to playact it day in and day out. The latter sounds quite exhausting! So let’s talk about how you can BE integrity.
Three things separate those with true integrity from the make-believers. They are consistency, compassion, and courage.
A person of integrity is consistently virtuous, through and through.
There is harmony between their thoughts, words, and deeds. They don’t think one way and act another. They also don’t say one thing, then do another. They may have their moments, but they are pretty much the same person, day in and day out.
They respond consistently. If they are kind, they are kind to everyone, even the unkind. If they are honest, they are honest to all. They do not pick and choose when they will be virtuous because it is who they are. It is what oozes out of them, effortlessly. They don’t have to “clean up the act” when they put on business clothes. They are consistently the same great person, inside and out, always.
When you embody integrity, your life is not compartmentalized into business ethics and personal ethics. The same internal rules apply to every aspect of your life. Doing right is always the right thing to do, no matter what you are doing.
A person of integrity is caring and compassionate.
Compassion and integrity go hand-in-hand. It is from a heart of love that the desire to be a person of integrity comes from. Actions like lying, backstabbing, cheating etc all come from a self-centered perspective that puts ME first, at the expense of others. Those things don’t come out of vessels full of love.
But, as in my example from the home school conference, people can tell the difference. They want to trust the person they buy from. They want to feel important. They want to be loved. They are looking for men and women of integrity.
A person of integrity is courageous.
There are times it takes courage to be virtuous. An easy example is that of a teen deciding not to try some drug, just because everyone else is. But those situations come up in the adult world too.
What do you do when everyone else is seeing sales success with a method you consider not-so-ethical? What to do after a friend tells you how to get away with cheating on your taxes? What if you also have the pressure of a looming financial need? Do you compromise your values for a dime?
Never. A person of integrity has the courage to trust their walk and the fruit of it. They have an uncompromising commitment to maintaining their high road. It’s not even really a decision process for those people… such actions are not an option to begin with.
It also takes courage to care. Loving others is a relationship, no matter how brief it is. To truly care, to give real love, your heart must be open. An open heart is exposed to any incoming daggers… and people being as they are, it happens. But a person of integrity cares, and loves anyway. That takes guts.
Now, the question begs to be asked, so I will ask and answer it…
What if I am not the person of integrity that I wish to be?
First, give yourself some credit for acknowledging that and wanting to improve in that area. It’s a grand place to start, with being honest with yourself.
This is not exactly the place for a lengthy discussion on how to see improvement in your personal ethics, but it IS the place to offer up one word of wisdom in that regards.
If you are not where you want to be yet, work on it continuously, but do not cover it up by living lies. Here is a good example of what that looks like, taken from my own life.
Another lifetime ago, I did a lot of speaking at home school conferences, meetings, fairs and the like. Back then, 90% of everything available at these conferences was either from a Christian perspective, or at the very least, was not in opposition to it. I wore the trademark home school jumper and tennis shoes, never missed church if the doors were open. I was also well aware that people looked up to me, as a leader in the industry to be the example to follow as a Christian wife and mother.
In reality, the marriage was a farce and I needed a divorce. Even though I never portrayed us as being a model to follow, I knew people did, and I knew what they perceived differed from the reality of it. The situation wore on my conscious so I quit. I did not just “retire” from that industry, but seemingly disappeared, for many years. I could not live a lie, even when it wasn’t coming from my mouth.
My integrity might be one of few things I possess, but I won’t compromise it…or many reasons, least of which is the bottom line for my businesses. Here are a few more grand excuses to not compromise and be what you believe in…
Being a business owner will always bring out attacks on your character.
Sadly, it is what some people do and a fact of life. The ability to hide behind type on the internet only makes that worse. People get very brave with their words when they know the worst that will happen is some verbal volleyball.
So, accept that it will happen. If you are a person of integrity, you don’t need to fear damage to your reputation very much though. Those who know you, will pay no attention to slander, and some will even defend you too. And those who enjoy entertaining the bad thoughts about you? Well, they don’t know who you are and they don’t matter much because the truth of you will always come shining through when it is real.
Which brings me to another really good reason to guard your integrity. Goodness gracious, it must be exhausting trying to stay ahead of a life of lies, half-truths, and hidden secrets. How in the world people can keep up with lie after lie to cover the original lie…and then they’d have to remember who they have told which lie.
A person can only keep that up for so long before their world implodes on itself, if for no other reason, once you start losing a bit of the memory with age, your goose is cooked if you don’t write the fibs down and keep track of them. Seriously, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I no longer have the brain capacity for what a lifestyle of lies would require.
The very best reason of all for being true to your ethics though is this: Because you care.
Most entrepreneurs and business owners I know are highly motivated by a desire to help others. It is their why. The big picture reason that they do what it is they do. Income from it is secondary. They walk in love and desire to be a blessing. We might notice the few who are obviously just out to make a buck, but we won’t be noticing them for long because they won’t last.
So, I am assuming, if you are reading this, you care about the people you serve in business. You probably care about people in general too…and you dig the idea of sowing good into the world so it can be passed on. It is what makes life worth living, this thing called LOVE.
Well, the thing is, real love and a life lacking integrity can’t peacefully coexist. If you are lacking integrity, the love is not going to flow out of you as it needs to. The only way to keep that flow going is to fix the vessel in the areas where it needs it.
How can you love others and intentionally do something that brings harm? You can’t. It is utterly impossible.
The problem is that we don’t always see the damage an unethical streak can cause. It is easy to cheat on your taxes, because it is just the government, not a person. But, what about the person who looks up to you and sees you cheat on your taxes? Wow. You just made it easier for them to in turn, compromise their integrity as well. You’re sending a bad ripple out into the world. For what? Some money.
There are always consequences for our actions, good or bad. It is the order of things and can’t always be denied, only delayed. We do not live in a vacuum. Our choices always have an impact on others, even if it is tiny.
If you are serious about showing loving kindness and compassion, you want to truly BE the things you profess, without compromise. Whatever moral standard you hold yourself to needs to either be the real deal, or you need to quit professing it.
As you evaluate your life, do you see that consistency, care, and courage of convictions?
If so, shine on and change the world for better!
If the answer is, “honestly, no so much”….perhaps it is time to start working out the kinks? The results will show in your bank account, how well you sleep at night, and in the beautiful wake you leave behind you. May we all be the change we wish to see and make it good!