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The Sales Evangelist

How Do Unethical Sales People Sleep at Night? Which line separates ethical and unethical sales behavior? How do you know when you’ve already crossed the line?

Yes! Sales is important and you need to do what needs to be done to get that sale. But at the end of the day, you need to make sure that you feel good about what you’ve done and you feel good with yourself.

In this episode, Dr. Michael Mallin from the University of Toledo shares with us why some salespeople engage in unethical behaviors. After about 16 years of sales industry experience, Michael has decided to join the academia. His research paper, How Do Unethical Salespeople Sleep at Night? also co-written by Dr. Laura Serviere Munoz, delves into the effects of the different types of neutralizations on the ethical intention of salespeople.

Here are the highlights of my conversation with Michael:

How Do Unethical Sales People Sleep at Night?

Nature of the Study:

  • Under what circumstances salespeople try to mentally justify their unethical sales behavior
  • Not understanding the difference between ethical and unethical sales behaviors

3 Criterias to Determine Unethical Sales Behavior:

  1. If it’s illegal or violates any law
  2. If someone is severely disadvantaged by your action (is your action fair and balanced?)
  3. If you do not want your friends and family to know about this action that you’re engaging in

The 5 Types of Neutralizations that Occur When Salespeople Justify their Sales Practices:

  1. Denial of injury
  2. Appeal to higher royalty – conceding to the demands of a social group they belong
  3. Denial of responsibility
  4. Condemning the condemners
  5. Denial of victim

Reasons for the prevalence of neutralization in sales:

  • When no one is really hurt (denial of injury)
  • They need to do it in order to satisfy their boss, family or themselves (appeal to higher loyalty)

Where sales neutralization applies:

  1. Hunting – When ‘you’re promoting sales
  2. Farming – When you’re building customer relationships
  3. When you make somebody’s justifications

On the negative stigma of selling:

More common in direct to consumer selling

How to analyze whether you’re doing ethical or unethical sales practice

  1. Always follow the law
  2. Is what you’re doing or the decision you’re making fair and balanced?
  3. Would you want your family and friends to know about what you’ve done?

“Falling on your sword” concept:

  • Boils down to trust
  • Admit your mistake and rectify it

Current projects Michael is working on:

  • Research on the dynamics of the relationship between the sales manager and salesperson (balancing trust, performance-based sales control, and outcome-based sales control)
  • How do sales managers use their power?

Check out the National Conference for Sales Management happening on April 15-18, 2015 in Houston, Texas where university professors and educators come together to discuss research and teaching of sales, share best teaching practices, research in sales, and have fun.

Get connected with Michael by sending him an email through michael.mallin@utoledo.edu.

Or contact Dr. Laura Serviere Munoz through email at lserviere@udallas.edu

Michael’s Major Takeaways:

  • Understand that we as human beings have natural defense mechanisms.
  • Be aware that if you’re not sure whether something is ethical or unethical, you may have the tendency to use neutralizations to mute the impact of an unethical behavior.
  • The BEST thing to do when you’re not sure what to do: ASK people (boss, trusted friends, mentors) to help you validate your decision.



About the Author The Sales Evangelist

Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.

Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.

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