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Conflicts of Interest

Have you heard about the recent bust-up between McKinsey the global consultancy firm and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

The FDA has discovered that McKinsey seems to have been playing both sides and “paused” all contracts with them, whilst they investigate.

The global consulting firm has already agreed to pay over $500m in damages to settle allegations in the US that its work for Opioid manufacturers created an absolute epidemic of addiction whilst, at the same time, McKinsey appeared to be advising the other side - pharmaceutical companies - in how to navigate these dark waters.

McKinsey, unsurprisingly, also works with both the Pentagon and several equivalent Chinese Institutions of the State, potentially creating a conflict of interest so great that it could threaten global security. And that can no longer be ignored.

However, these real and present (we should also say alleged) conflicts of interest are already well covered in other respected press, so I want to discuss something slightly different; something slightly more nuanced.

Different Types of Conflict of Interest

If you want to see more about notorious conflicts of interest, you could do worse than watch The Big Short with Steve Carell (right).

Or, you could watch a movie about the Enron story The Smartest Guys in the Room narrated by Matt Damon 👇

An inconvenient truth:

Conflicts of interest occur all the time

In and of themselves, Conflicts of Interests need not be a biggie but they do need to be declared.

In this ever more complex, ever more interconnected world, Conflicts of Interest are all but unavoidable.

The real problem with Conflicts of Interest is when people attempt to keep them hidden from view - whether by failing to declare a potential conflict or by actively attempting to cover up a relationship; it presents a murky and ugly situation, often resulting in a variety of "loss ofs":

  • Loss of shareholder value

  • Loss of reputation

  • Loss of trust

So what’s all this got to do with Sales?

Well, trust is at the very heart of all relationships. It’s vital that salespeople are able to build and maintain trust with clients and partners in order to sell effectively but also to to raise the perception of sales as the worthy profession I believe it is.

As a salesperson, you’re automatically exposed to the “they would say that wouldn’t they?” type of claims from certain people involved in your deals because you stand to gain from a (hopefully) substantial commission payment from any resulting sale.

That is an example of a known conflict of interest. Everybody knows - or should reasonably know - that you’ll be making a commission if the prospect buys and that’s why it’s doubly important that you're aware of this dynamic. You'll need to bring in other, less conflicted people into your deal to maximise your chances of winning.

If the deal is big enough, you can bring in others others to help win it: Subject Matter Experts, Executive Sponsors, International Account Managers etc - in fact, everyone who is involved in making the resulting contract a success for all parties or stakeholders.

In the past, I've even invited clients and prospects into my office and had them meet not just with our Executives but also with junior technicians and administrators.

Why? It shows how our culture and values are woven into every step of the customer experience - from sales, right through to billing. It builds trust. It works!

7 Top Tips to Build Trust

Trust is not generally just given away, it is earned over time. However, here are 7 top tips you can use to build trust quickly in a business relationship:

  • Turn up for meetings on-time (it matters)

  • Do what you say you're going to do

  • Listen. Carefully.

  • Be transparent in your dealings

  • Don't Pitch (or close) too early

  • Be disarmingly honest with your answers

  • Vulnerability - make yourself vulnerable in your communications

Want to Build a More Trustworthy Sales Organisation?

Contact me for an informal chat about the art of the possible.

Connect with me on LinkedIn


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