Getting to yes: An ethical approach

By: Stacey Blansky '20
Getting to yes: An ethical approach

Addressing fellow students at Sage Hall in his Sept. 28 REDtalk, “Sales 101: How to Sell in your Everyday Life,” Matt Ford, MBA ’19, discussed the influence that popular movies about the corporate world, such as “The Boiler Room” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” have on people’s understanding of the financial world. Conflating business with corporate greed, as these movies do, makes people question the role self-interest plays in everyday transactions.

While movies often depict sales and salespeople to be cutthroat, in the real world sales requires integrity, he argued. Being authentic in your interactions with clients will result in a greater number of business deals and longer-lasting relationships. “The modern salesperson really needs to have an ethical framework,” he said.

Johnson’s honor code provides such a framework, Ford said. By following the honor code, fellow Johnson students can engage in ethical business practices. A guide that supports Johnson’s commitment to cultivate successful and ethical business leaders of the future, the Johnson honor code directs students to ask three important questions when weighing sales decisions:

  1. Am I trying to deceive anyone?
  2. Am I or is anyone else going to gain an undo advantage?
  3. How would I feel being on the receiving end of my action?”

Ford also described four sales tactics to avoid:

  1. Manipulative sales: Trying to force a customer into buying a product or service.
  2. Unethical sales: Selling a product that you personally would not want to buy.
  3. Fire-sale urgency: Rushing a customer by insisting that the sale will only be available for a short period of time.
  4. Snake oil sales: Enticing a customer into a sale by misrepresenting how a product actually functions.
Matt Ford, MBA ’19, addressed his classmates during his REDtalk
Matt Ford, MBA ’19, addressed his classmates during his REDtalk

Ford followed up with a personal story about how practicing ethical sales techniques resulted in success for his company. While he was working for The Muse, a career-advice website aimed at millennials, it came to his attention that Atlassian, creator of instant-messaging service HipChat, was struggling to recruit female employees into its tech sector. Since Muse was strong in attracting and hiring women, he knew he could help. So he reached out to Atlassian and helped them address their recruitment issue. As a consequence, The Muse made its biggest deal of the year, developed a strong relationship with Atlassian, and gained a valuable client.

Determining how to help a potential client company overcome a challenge was Ford’s winning strategy.

“Figure out what it is that is holding them back, and show them how being part of the vision is going to be helpful for them,” Ford said. “Make it super simple for them to say yes.”