How to Sell with a Clear Conscience


How you sell to your clients is a touchy subject with many people. A recent post on Frank Kern and branding set off a slew of tangent-topic comments and heated debate – many commentators missed the point of the post completely, because Kern’s methods of selling incensed them so much.

In fact, I received a slew of emails related to the post. Some people were very angry at me and questioned my intentions (which were good) and my integrity (which was solid). Some were apologetic, feeling the need to voice their views (good or bad) but sympathizing that their opinions might fan the flames of the comment section.

Some were amazed at the variety of reactions and comments lighting up the blog. Some were thankful, because I made them think, taught them something, and gave them a place to discuss a hot topic. Some commended my cool head, some encouraged me to write more on branding (which was the whole point of the post) and some spent thoughtful hours wondering why comments about sales tactics had upset them so much.

Basically, it was wild. One marketer and his sales techniques provoked hundreds of different reactions, thoughts and feelings. But I digress.

You Have to Sell to Succeed

Like it or not, sales strategies are part of business. You have to market your stuff, or you won’t make any money. You can’t just put out a product with a price tag and hope it sells itself.

It won’t. Period.

The problem is that many people struggle with the morals and ethics surrounding marketing and sales.

They don’t want to take advantage of other people. They don’t want to sell something to those who have no money. They don’t want to push their products or sell with sleaze.

In short, they care more about other people than they do themselves.

Don’t Worry; Be Happy

That’s a nice mindset to have. We support kindness and generosity ourselves, often making sacrifices no one knows about to help other people get ahead. We donate services, we help people who can’t afford us and we go the extra mile.

But at the end of the day, if all we’ve done is help others just so that we can say, “We’re good people,” then we haven’t really gotten ahead at all. We’d have no money. We’d have no food, no heat, and nothing to show for our time. We’re not in business to react the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. (Not yet, anyways.)

So we have to sell. And if you own any type of business or income-earning venture at all, so do you. Most likely, you already use plenty of subtle (and not so subtle) marketing and sales techniques. You just don’t notice them because you’ve decided they’re in line with your personal values.

When Sales Get Personal

Personal values have a lot to do with how you’ll sell and market your products and services. When you act outside of your set of beliefs, you tend to sense great unease, regret and guilt. So of course, you do need to feel comfortable with how you sell. That means you’ll have to decide what’s right for you.

The best way to figure out sales tactics that fit with you and your business is to set your emotions aside. Push your own feelings about specific tactics or overall delivery aside and analyze everything you can about a variety of sales strategies. Figure out what others do, how they do it and why it works.

While doing so, don’t bother getting upset about how other people sell and market. Learn from them, even if they’re the most crooked tactics. That doesn’t mean you need to replicate what you feel are shady strategies – it means benefiting from a huge learning opportunity to know yourself, your personal limits, and how to avoid being taken in by the pros.

(Don’t worry, though. Most businesses operate with sales and marketing strategies that are pretty okay, and you can too.)

Once you’ve analyzed a bunch of sales strategies, bring your emotions and feelings back into the picture. Examine each tactic that you’ve observed with a cool, neutral and objective head, and think about how you feel using that tactic.

Hate it? Then don’t use it, plain and simple. Love it? Great. Try it out. On the fence, feeling ambivalent, not sure? Work on finding a variation of the strategy that feels better for you.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.