Generating revenue is essential to business growth. Applying ethical and moral boundaries can help you project a brand that you’re proud of, and that is seen as a force for good by customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders.
The best way to ensure you do this is to associate yourself and your business with people and partners who align with your values and the way you want to practice your craft.
High-integrity revenue use comes in many different flavors. For example, you can donate some of your profits to a cause you support; you also have the option to invest your revenue in yourself, your people, or a better experience for your customers.
Generating Revenue in Good Ways Should Matter to a Business
At Add1Zero, we hold integrity very highly in our value chain. It’s baked into our core values, to the extent that we will reject partnerships with businesses that we feel are the wrong types of clients for us.
Poorly structured incentives, particularly in the area of outsourced sales teams, sometimes lead to low-integrity behaviors. We sometimes encounter a fear from prospects and clients that we will do whatever it takes (in a negative way) to book commissions, that all we care about is closing the deal.
We understand previous experiences can influence client worries. We believe in making good choices for the business at large because we have a long-term commitment to client growth and want to be seen as excellent team members, not just the sales team.
It’s essential that we understand the values of any firm we work with. Our values do not need to align perfectly with a client’s, but at the same time there should not be misalignment. If your business wants to do things that simply can’t be reconciled with a high-integrity approach, we don’t want to work with that.
We will often defer to the leadership of the company with which we are working. If a lead comes through the door willing to spend $100,000 on a product for which the normal price is $15,000 but is going to be difficult to work with, it’s clear our client will pay dearly for the money they make on the deal. We let them decide if it’s worth it to make the premium.
We think of it like this: “Do y’all want to pay the ‘jerk tax’ on that?”
The quality of a client can be measured in ways that are not strictly linked to revenue. If you run a restaurant and allow in a high-rolling customer who is a nightmare to deal with, who is rude and treats your staff poorly, that’s not a good client, no matter how they throw their money around. In other words, how we treat people matters.
How Value Alignment Makes a Significant Difference
At Add1Zero, we try not to be the “thought police” when it comes to judging the business models of potential clients, unless your business relies on addiction or, for instance, selling facial recognition technology to dictators. We do our best to expand our minds, while not bending our core values.
Once in a while we encounter a business and decide we can’t help them because while their activities are in no way illegal, they don’t feel like the right fit for us and we feel that an association with them would reflect poorly on our brand and the other clients we work with.
Additionally, we have spoken to some businesses who work in staffing, and from the way they spoke of their people, it was clear they treated them with low regard because they were offshore in countries with cheaper labor. We ended that conversation very quickly. In no circumstances should you ever talk about people in that way. That’s a perfect example of low integrity.
In complete contrast, it’s possible to feel really good about selling what a particular business produces when it’s clear they add a lot of value to the world.
We can look ourselves in the mirror and say we help companies grow in a sustainable fashion. That’s a good thing to do with our time.
Certain businesses, though, may have a great mission statement and claim they want to do awesome things for the world. But if you have a dictatorial CEO or run that machine in a way that doesn’t treat people well, why would we want to enable that? We don’t, so we walk away from those deals no matter how much money they offer.
Commercial Alignment Can Be an Ethical Consideration, Too
On occasion, we come across businesses that are neither unethical, nor negative actors, but we decide not to work with them because we believe there’s not sufficient market demand for their product or service.
This happens a lot in the technology sector. Many founders have an elegant, beautiful technology solution for a problem they simply didn’t ask anybody about before building.
At moments like this, a sales partner can often feel as if they are in the investor seat. Should we get involved and spend a lot of time and money trying to figure out how to sell this thing? Can our labor and our skill move the cash flow in this business? If it’s not something we can get behind, it’s hard to see that as a good investment for them or for us.
If, as a founding team, you haven’t demonstrated you can actually sell your product, this is not a sales problem – this is a product market fit problem. We’ll be the first to tell you that in such circumstances, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at us, we can’t sell your product.
Sales Techniques that are not Ethical or Moral
1/ Spinning a Product’s Capabilities
It is possible to sell products by exaggerating their efficiency and minimizing any deficiencies. The question is, could those deficiencies, if not exposed, hurt the client or their customer in the long run?
You need to be extremely careful in situations where, for instance, you over-promise on a medical or healthcare offering. That would be very unethical and potentially dangerous.
Similarly, in any type of regulated space, such as financial services, if you misrepresent the features and values of a product or service, you could hurt someone.
In general, wildly overestimating features, values, and benefits that simply don’t exist is bad behavior. You can focus on the benefits of a product or service without focusing on the detriments, but if outright asked about them, you should never lie to a prospect.
2/ Criticizing a Competitor
If a prospect asks you how you are different from another company in the same space, you should have a good competitive analysis ready. However, it’s not advisable to say negative things about a rival business.
You can explain that customers have moved to you from a competitor for various reasons, but saying another company is bad is not behavior we would advocate. You should have positive reasons you are better, not negative reasons they are worse.
3/ Hyper Startup Mode
Salespeople can be put in a really awkward position when they’re asked to sell things that don’t exist. This comes from the startup situation where you are effectively getting the customer to pay for the development of a product you are promising to produce.
There’s no product roadmap in this instance. The salespeople are basically finding out what a customer wants and then using the customer’s money to build it. This is a behavior that has become normalized, and it’s not the highest integrity move.
If a prospect asks a salesperson if a product or feature is on the roadmap, the best answer is to say you will take it back to the product team and get an answer on that. This also gives you another touch point to add value.
How Revenue Can Be Used in a High-Integrity Way
We believe in revenue-first because you can’t spend below-the-line unless you have the money coming in above-the-line.
1/ External: Supporting Good Causes
Some companies make it clear that their mission is to donate a certain percentage of their profit or revenue to a cause, which is both admirable and can leverage their investment for mutual good.
This can take the form of getting their own people involved in the cause, and it has the benefit of aligning the brand with an initiative that adds value to the world.
Making the decision to support diversity initiatives, Pride month, or local food drives, for instance, can create greater satisfaction among, and engagement with, their workforce.
2/ Internal: Sharing the Wealth
There are several ways to spend money inside a business that will incentivize the workforce and increase their commitment to the brand by enhancing the sense that their rewards are linked to the overall success of the company.
One of the best ways is to share the wealth you’ve created. This covers short-term ideas like commission on sales, medium-term rewards such as bonuses, and long-term incentives like stock options.
The intention is to make sure at every moment that people feel valued when they work for you. You may not be the company that offers the biggest salaries, but with the right mix of incentives and benefits, you can create an awesome place where people want to work and feel rewarded.
If in doubt, ask the people you work with how they would like to be rewarded. We did that and we learned some easy places we could invest that built better engagement.
3/ Founders Should Not Over-Sacrifice
Many founders, especially when still in startup mode, don’t pay themselves enough. They sacrifice their earnings for the good of the company rather than paying themselves a market salary.
The first thing such a founder should do when revenues increase is to address this situation, rather than plowing the money back into marketing or other spending categories.
This will drive down their stress levels and, in turn, enable them to make better strategic decisions.
Providing free labor for your own company can be destructive for another reason. If you have a change of financial circumstances and are removed, the loss of that subsidized labor can mean the company is no longer viable.
Contact Us Now to Find Out More
If you’re a B2B services company, and this information resonates with you, book a free consultation with us, and we’re happy to talk to you about generating revenue in a high-integrity way – and doing good with the revenue you generate.