Sales Ethics. Oxymoron or Not?

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Date Submitted: 08/24/2011 01:44 AM

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‘It has been said that sales ethics is an oxymoron’. For this essay, an oxymoron would be defined as the bringing together of two apparently contradictory concepts such as ‘a deafening silence’ or ‘a cheerful pessimist’. To say that sales ethics is an oxymoron suggest that there are not, or cannot be, ethics in sales: that sales is in some way unethical (i.e. that making sales or business is inherently bad), or that it is, at best, amoral (i.e. outside of the normal moral considerations) (Crane and Matten 2010, 4). In order to fully understand the statement in question, we must also define the term ‘sales ethics’. Sales or business ethics is the application of ethical values to business behaviour or sales function (Clive 2011). The subject of business or sales ethics has been around since the very first trade transaction. For example, the Code of Hammurabi, created nearly 4,000 years ago, records that Mesopotamian rulers attempted to create honest prices. In the fourth century BCE, Aristotle discussed the vices and virtues of tradesmen and merchants. The Old Testament and the Jewish Talmud discuss the proper way to conduct business and even includes topics such as fraud, theft, misleading advertisements, environmental issues and just prices. Throughout the history of commerce to today, the issues of business ethics is a continuous source of debate as it moves through stages of development undertaken by politicians, leaders and entrepreneurs to protect the welfare of the business as well as the people through policies and rules (Brief Guide to Business Ethics 2011, 2).

However, if we were to separate the term ‘sales ethics’ into two independent words; ‘sales’ and ‘ethics’, they almost seem mutually exclusive. Sales is defined as the activities associated with selling a product or service to achieve maximum profit (Cambridge Dictionary Online 2011) while...