by Amber Kossak
“The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.”
Integrity is an old-fashioned idea that is never out of fashion. It’s one of those important qualities that can make or break a career or a company. The failure to place a high value on integrity will have a detrimental impact on your business. Integrity is about doing the right things, whether people are watching you or not. It means having standards and living by those standards. It means being true to yourself and your beliefs.
Having said this, I want to take a deeper look at why integrity is important in our business, and why it may sometimes be difficult.
Integrity and Trust
Trust is the basis for all relationships. This is true for friends and family as well as the people we do business with. The dictionary defines trust as “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.” In other words, it has something to do with belief. Trust is a form of faith. “I have confidence that you can fix the problems in my car. I am putting my trust in you.”
There are all kinds of things that can weaken trust. Foremost of these is living in a culture that repeatedly tells people to be suspicious, especially of business people. Television shows and films often make business people the bad guys who can’t be trusted.
Some of this distrust has been produced by past high-profile television programs using hidden cameras to show ways car mechanics/service centers might rip off their customers. Some distrust stems from a lack of faith in salespeople in general, which can create a snowball effect. The customer now hesitates when being presented a product or service and we might hold back when communicating.
Social media offers other avenues for creating distrust. A bad review on Yelp by someone who had an axe to grind can create a completely false impression about your business. If your company is comprised of people with integrity, those who know you will ignore that rant. Those who don’t know you may be tempted to give it more credence than is due.
Are You Building Trust?
People can feel intimidated when they’re being sold something. Even when it’s legitimate, or necessary. If they feel uncomfortable they may have fight or flight reactions that make them distrustful. For this reason, we must make an extra effort in all our ongoing customer relations to instill the utmost confidence in our people and their integrity. Trust is earned, not automatic. “People buy from people” therefore; when trust has been established it will go more smoothly when recommending services.
Are you building integrity?
Why integrity can be hard! In 2011 Harvard Business Review (HBR) had a story titled “Why Integrity Is Never Easy.” Early on the author states that integrity ought to be a given, especially since “nobody wants to get involved with a company that lies, cheats, and tricks its customers.” Nor do employees want to work for a company that is dishonest and disingenuous with its people.
According to HBR, there are two reasons integrity is not that easy. First, people have an innate ability to rationalize their behavior. Perhaps they feel pressure to cut corners because other customers are waiting, so they might skip a few things to save time. “No one will notice,” they tell themselves.
A second area where integrity can be challenged is when you feel pressured to make promises you can’t keep. Some situations can’t be guaranteed. You believe this product or action will solve the customer’s problem, but you don’t know for sure. Relationships are built on trust, be honest, even if it results in a no sale.
Your reputation is your brand, and integrity is the foundation of all you stand for. This is why we cannot be careless about this matter. As Warren Buffet asserted, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” It’s your integrity that will keep you in the game.