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Ethical and Legal Issues in Selling

This chapter discussed the legal and ethical responsibilities of salespeople. These responsibilities are particularly important in personal selling because salespeople may face conflicts between their personal standards and the standards of their firms and customers. However, the evolution of selling has raised ethical standards and expectations; building long-term relationships with customers doesn't allow for unethical behavior.

Salespeople's ethical standards determine how they conduct relationships with their customers, employers, and competitors. Ethical issues in relations with customers involve the use of entertainment and gifts and the disclosure of confidential information. Ethical issues in relations with employers involve expenses and job changes. Finally, salespeople must be careful in how they talk about competitors and treat competitive products.

Many companies have ethical standards that describe the behavior expected of their salespeople. In evaluating potential employers, salespeople should consider these standards.

Salespeople also encounter many situations not covered by company statements and therefore must develop personal standards of right and wrong. Without personal standards, salespeople will lose their self-respect and the respect of their company and customers. Good ethics are good business. Over the long run, salespeople with a strong sense of ethics will be more successful than salespeople who compromise their own and society's ethics for short-term gain.

Statutory laws (such as the Uniform Commercial Code) and administrative laws (such as Federal Trade Commission rulings) guide the activities of salespeople in the United States. Selling in international markets is complex because of cultural differences in ethical judgments and laws that relate to sales activities in various countries.

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