The job of sales people has become increasingly difficult. Buyers are inundated with emails, calls, social media posts and piles of content marketing—and buying is so complex that indecision has gone up 20% (read: no sale). Sellers now struggle to find more creative ways to cut through the noise and gain the attention of their buyers. But this challenge is no excuse for bad behavior. Integrity is still critical in today’s sales environment and those who violate the unspoken code of ethics not only hurt their organization, but damage the reputation (and livelihood) of sales reps everywhere.

Recently I was on the receiving end of said behavior—I got duped. Here’s how it went down.

The Cold Outreach Email

As a founder, entrepreneur and business junkie, I am inclined to meet with other founders. I love hearing about their passions, why they started the business and their business models. When I received a well-written email invitation from Andy, founder of a rising B2B organization in San Francisco, I was already heading out to Dreamforce so I suggested we meet up for a cup of coffee. Our schedules didn’t align (which may have been purposeful…) so we settled on a phone call.

Based on the subject line and content of the email, I expected a Founder to Founder conversation (wouldn’t you?). This is where the bait and switch ensued.

Where is Andy?

What arrived was a calendar invite from a DIFFERENT person, with a screen share embedded. (Evidently, the rep, Ian, never saw my blog NEWSFLASH:  I Don’t Want to See Your Demo).  My ‘bad behavior antenna’ went up, but I didn’t cancel.

Instead, I sent a quick note to Andy the Founder to confirm the meeting: ”Andy, I am looking forward to our call.” (To which there was no response… )

When the meeting arrived, I dialed in and only Ian was on the line. No Andy the Founder. Apparently, he had more important things to do, but Ian said he would be happy to take me through the demo.

My New Jersey roots came out in a flash and while it is not relevant to the point of this article, I didn’t end the meeting. In fact, I kept a very uncomfortable Ian on the phone for what was likely the least pleasant 17 minutes of his day.

Ban the Bait and Switch

Folks, integrity matters. Whether it’s pens, cars or medical equipment, how you sell and do business is a reflection of you, your company and the sales profession as a whole. Bad sales behavior rarely earns business. But it does earn the rep, and every other sales rep, a sleazy reputation that hurts the collective credibility. If a CEO, like myself, agrees to several ‘Founder to Founder’ calls one month and they are all sneaky demo appointments, what will happen? They’ll stop taking calls all together. That negatively impacts honest sales reps and the jaded CEO. If he/she doesn’t take any sales calls, opportunities to improve their business go undetected. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Gaining the attention of prospects through cold outreach is hard and reps need to adapt their tactics to this new sales environment. But ‘getting the appointment by any means’ is never acceptable. Be creative. Be persistent. Be a problem-solver. But above all else, be honest.

Integrity is, and always will be, the heart of our profession. Protect it.

What bad behavior have you experienced?