Blog - Mirroring God

A Sales Director's Integrity Test

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frank's company had divided the U.S. market into 24 regions, rating, rewarding and recognizing each regional manager by how he or she compared with the other 23. After a new product came on the market, sales results in Frank's region lagged results from most other regions. In spite of his best efforts, Frank could not raise the sales for that product.

Frustrated and discouraged, he began asking other sales directors, “What are you doing to get such great results with this item?” They told him had been promoting the product in ways not permitted by law. For example, they instructed their sales forces to market the drug for treating certain conditions, such as Lyme disease, even though no research data existed to back up their claims. Further, the FDA had not approved the drug for those diseases. Since Lyme disease was particularly prevalent in Frank's region, his boss began leaning on him to take the pragmatic approach and adopt those sales techniques.

But Frank saw this as a life-compromising path. “I can't do this,” he said. “God calls us to honesty. This would deceive doctors and would lead them to deceive their patients.”

“You're crazy not to do this,” said many of his peers. But Frank held his ground. It wasn't worth corrupting his own character, not to mention risking jail time.” Instead, he met with his sales people to devise other ways to boost results for the new product. Sales increased somewhat, putting Frank's region just slightly above average for all 24 districts.

Looking back, he's grateful for the way his decision affected two other regional managers—one from the northeastern and one from the southern U.S. region. These two saw Frank's willingness to take a stand, met with him and agreed that they could not promote the product with dishonest spin. The three of them brainstormed to develop alternative marketing plans for their respective sales teams. In the end, all three kept their jobs. The other two thanked Frank for setting an example and taking the lead in finding others who were willing to support each other in doing what was right.

As he reflects on the experience, Frank says, “In sales you're always compared with others who may do what you cannot do as a Christian.”

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