Ethical sales for purpose-driven business

Rachel Baker
How do you go about making good money?

We’re talking “good” as in helping your business grow but also helping solve a real issue for your customers – and possibly even society at large. Basically, money that does good things.

You see, there often feels like a disconnect between making money for good and doing so in a good way. When you think of a typical salesperson, the word “ethical” often isn’t the first adjective that springs to mind. Many of us automatically feel on the defensive when we get a sales pitch – and with good reason. Many traditional sales techniques involve a level of coercion that’s focused on making a sale at any cost.

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So it’s natural that as an ethically-minded business, you might feel wary about engaging in sales activities. Then again, your purpose-driven business still needs to make money. So how do you reconcile that?

Here at FutureX we’ve been having some interesting discussions lately about how to sell ethically. These are some of the insights we’ve come up with…

Persuasion vs manipulation

In order to sell something to someone, a certain level of persuasion is usually required. If someone’s not familiar with your product or service, then of course you’ll explain the functions and benefits in a bid to convince them it’s worth the money.

Where sales become unethical is when persuasion becomes manipulation. A good indicator of when sales are erring into manipulation is intention. If the aim is to make a sale by any means necessary, then this often leads to manipulating people. However, if your priority is the customer’s needs, then naturally you’ll attract your ideal customers while respecting if your product is unsuitable for someone.

So, what does this distinction look like in terms of concrete sales techniques?

Unethical sales techniques

Let’s look at unethical sales techniques that involve manipulating customers.

Misrepresenting your product

Whether it’s through exaggerating, deliberately omitting information or downright lying, you shouldn’t mislead customers about exactly what you’re selling.

Exaggerating the data to create a problem

It’s well known that the best products solve genuine problems and improve people’s lives. However, exaggerating the data to make a point and fabricating a problem, particularly one that plays on people’s insecurities, is a form of manipulation.


We’ve all been there: we really want to close the deal and so we start promising heaven and earth. However, as tempting as it is, this approach will only lead to disappointment for you and your customer further down the line. It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver.

Ethical sales techniques

The good news is that you can still persuade people to buy from you whilst acting ethically. Here’s how…

 Being honest

It sounds obvious, but being honest about the benefits – and limitations – of your product is best practice for ethical sales. Customers will learn what’s great about your product and you’ll earn their trust by being upfront and transparent.

Asking lots of questions

Don't guess or make assumptions - ask. Find out what your customers' needs really are by being curious about their business and learning how you can help them.

Using factual comparisons

You can compare your product to others, as long as you’re honest. If your product really is superior, then the facts will speak for themselves. And perhaps another product would be better for some people – and that’s OK too.

Why ethical sales are better for business

If there’s one thing that creates repeat customers – which is key to sustainable business success – it’s trust. And if you genuinely try to help people – even if it doesn’t lead to them buying your product – they’ll remember and appreciate that. They’ll tell other people about you – people who might end up buying from you. You’ll cultivate a reputation as an honest and reputable business, which will help you achieve long-term success.
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