How to Remain Ethical in Personal Selling

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Businesses are under considerable pressure to remain competitive while decreasing expenses, which can challenge the ability of sales associates to remain ethical in their marketing and pitches.

This problem is of particular concern in personal selling. Personal selling refers to direct selling — that is, one-on-one sales through face-to-face or other personal correspondence. Personal selling is easy to modify based on the situation, which differentiates it from other methods of advertising and sales. Remaining ethical in personal selling is possible, provided you create opportunities to evaluate your actions, and apply a principle of strict consistency.

Read industry or company data on your product. The more information you have, the easier it will be to provide truthful answers to client inquiries, and be consistent in the data you provide. Tell clients you will find the data they need if you don't have the answer at hand. Don't make things up as you go in order to speed the sale.

Write a list of pros and cons for the item you want to sell. Do not try to withhold the disadvantages of your product when making a sales presentation. Instead, acknowledge them, and explain the solutions you and your company can offer.

Make a list of values you want to incorporate in your personal selling, such as giving the client opportunities to ask questions. Formulate methods to get those values across in every pitch, such as simply asking each customer, "Do you have any questions?" or saying, "We believe in our products, so I'd like to talk to you about our risk-free return policy."

Go through the seven steps of selling — prospecting, pre-approach, approach, sales presentation, handling objections and sales resistance, closing, and post-sale follow-up — for every personal sale you undertake. If you routinely skip steps, you're more likely to forget to provide the same information to all customers.

Design a customer feedback form, or have a coworker tag along and evaluate your selling approach after you close. This will give you a fresh perspective on how you are coming across to your customers.

Take leadership style tests. This may make you more aware of your strengths and weaknesses during the sales process.

Watch the body language of your customers. Do not ignore physical and verbal feedback that indicates your clients are feeling uncomfortable or confused.

Take five minutes after each sale to evaluate how you completed the personal selling process. Ask yourself whether you maintained your values throughout the sale, and identify any points at which clients may have questioned your tactics.


  • If at any point during a sale you realize you've made a mistake, admit it to the client. Honesty is the only real way to save face.