Sales managers face the same challenges in managing salespeople that all managers face. These include ensuring that hiring, compensation, and other management practices are not discriminatory; that sexual harassment finds no home in the workplace; and that employees are treated with dignity and respect.
Other challenges may arise, though. For example, salespeople have to be in front of customers when customers are available. Earlier, we discussed how the number of calls made can impact a salesperson’s success. So should a sales manager schedule all training sessions on weekends, when buyers are at home and not available for sales calls? Does the answer to that question change if the salesperson is paid a salary or a commission?
Recently, one sales manager reported a customer who said he did not want Muslims calling on him. Another sales manager said when she and her salesperson (another woman) sat down with a buyer (a male), the buyer had pornography on his computer monitor. Do those sales managers assign new salespeople to the accounts? Or do they “fire” the customer? If the customer was to be fired, the salesperson would lose commission. Yet in both instances, the managers said they fired the customer, an action that both salespeople were happy with, and they were reassured that the loss of the sale wouldn’t be held against them. The loss of the commission was worth it.
In sales, several laws apply that also apply in other areas of marketing but are more prominent in sales. For example, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) determines when a sale is a sale. Typically, a sale is a sale when the product is delivered and accepted by the buyer. In most instances, the customer can cancel the order with no penalty unless accepted. Sales managers have to be aware of such laws in order to avoid creating policies that can be illegal.
Laws that affect sales operations include pricing discrimination, which we discuss in Chapter 15 "Price, the Only Revenue Generator", and privacy laws, discussed earlier. In addition, laws regarding hiring practices, workplace safety, and others can affect sales managers. If global sales situations arise, the Federal Corrupt Practices Act—which prohibits bribery and other practices that might be culturally acceptable elsewhere but that are illegal in the United States—comes into play.
For these reasons, sales managers should develop close working relationships with the human resources department. These professionals, along with the legal department, are charged with staying abreast of legal changes that influence management practice.
Salespeople are, for the most part, caring, ethical professionals. They do face unique ethical challenges because of their job, including how to handle unethical requests from customers and making sure that they know and follow all company policies for interacting with customers. American salespeople have the added constraint that what’s illegal in the United States is illegal for them in other countries because of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even if the behavior in question is acceptable to those countries’ laws and practices.
Sales managers have all the usual management concerns, such as fair hiring practices. According to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, managers also have to develop policies and practices that codify ethical behaviors, train salespeople on the ethics policies, and ensure that the policies are followed. In addition, sales managers have to be aware of laws such as the Universal Commercial Code and others that govern sales transactions.
- Do salespeople deserve the image or negative stereotype? Why or why not?
- Do ethics get in the way of success in sales? Why or why not?
- What safeguards do companies enact to ensure ethical behavior among salespeople and sales managers?