Getting big sales numbers by cheating customers or creating a false sense of fear can harm your company.

I work with some great selling shops. They have annual sales per truck per year that far exceed the industry goal of $250,000.

For these shops, my job is simply to formalize their sales process with a Sales Coaching Manual and a Sales Training System. This makes it repeatable with existing techs, newly hired techs and the techs they build from scratch. Selling is just another form of operations. We formalize it in a chapter we write after the operations manual has been written to address how we do our work. It makes selling systematic and teachable to anyone.

My sales approach and selling system was honed at my own shop, both in my selling career and in the work I did in training others to sell.

Unfortunately, I encounter “Superstar Selling Techs” who are not always generating sales ethically. That's one reason I named my selling system Ethical Selling. It stems from my dad's golden rule of sales. He would say, “At the end of the day, you'd better be able to look into the mirror and not have to turn away.” This is how he wanted all of us to treat our customers. You can't look in the mirror without having to turn away if your selling is based on dishonesty.

I'm pleased to report that on my return visits to New York, I run into a lot of former clients I had sold work to. The price for those jobs was probably 30 percent to 50 percent higher than my competitors. Do you think they're happy to see me or do you think they want to wring my neck? The good news is, they're happy to see me. They love to tell me how the heating system or the radiant flooring I sold them is still giving them all the comfort I promised and that they desired.

Would they feel that way toward me if I sold unethically? Suppose I had sold them something they didn't need or want, or do what I said it would. Would they still be happy to see me? No!

At any great selling shop, there are always a couple of Selling Superstars. I think that's great if they're selling in the customer's best interest and not their own best interest. But if they're making recommendations based on lies or selling based on creating unwarranted fear, they poison the company.

Co-workers know who's cheating the customers. And they find it very disheartening to do the right thing for the customer and come out on the short end of the bonus money to the cheaters. They begin to see sales as a game where win at any cost is not only sanctioned, but rewarded.

To sell ethically, we need to begin our sales approach from seeing what we do as honorable. The honor is to serve people well and in the way we'd like to be served.

You don't have to cheat to win!

Ethical Selling Defined

When a client asks me for an example of what I mean by ethical selling, I give the following example: If I went to your mom's house and all I found was a disconnected pilot tube on her two-year-old water heater, would you be OK if I tried to sell her a new water heater? (The answer is always a resounding “NO!”)

How about if I went to your mom's house and all I found was a disconnected pilot tube on her two-year-old water heater and I said to her, “All I found was a disconnected pilot tube. But while I was in the basement, I noticed that you have old corroded gate valves on your water main. Since this is your emergency shut-off should a pipe break, I'd recommend replacing them with new ball valves. May I also ask you a question? Is this new water heater giving you all the hot water you wanted?”

Your mom answers, “No, I added a big tub and the water runs out when I try to fill it. Do you have a solution?”

Now how do you feel about me and my conversation with your mom?

Ethical Selling requires us to ask ourselves, “If I was the customer, what would I want the tech to check to avoid future problems, or what would I want them to recommend for existing problems that will give me more comfort, peace of mind and save me money?” Now, that's what I call selling in the customer's best interest.

When you allow a Superstar Seller with big sales numbers to win unethically, you damage the morale for the rest of the company.

What if you don't know what's going on in the field? No excuses accepted! A manager has to get out of the office and begin regular ride-alongs. Better yet, create a Mystery Shopper Program to catch people doing things the right way or the wrong way.

Ignoring the problem is telling your staff that you love the dollars these Superstar Sellers generate, no matter how they do it.

Here's what I know from experience. When good shops have had the guts to fire the Superstar Selling Tech who was misleading clients, they had their best sales months. Surprising? Not to me.

The rest of the team picked up the load because they now believed cheating is unacceptable. And they rededicated themselves to selling the right way. They found new confidence that they can all make sales goal the right way. And that's by asking good questions, making good suggestions and offering solutions that are always in the customer's best interest.

Fire your misbehaving Superstar and watch what improves at your company.

Don't miss Al's program, “Staffing Power! Recruiting, Hiring and Training” (Parts 1 and 2), at this year's ISH North America trade show in Chicago, Sept. 28-30.