Bribery is a big issue in Zimbabwe.
Sales staff struggle to make big sales because buyers at many firms and government departments expect to be given bribes in return for purchasing products and services. The real extent of corruption in both private firms and government departments cannot be easily determined because both sales people and buyers are very secretive about it; and none of them wants it to stop.
Business owners and managers feel that sales people are not working hard enough, as evidenced by unsatisfactory sales volumes.
What can the poor sales person do when faced with the dilemma of whether to offer a bribe or lose a sale?
Let’s us define a bribe. Taking a client out for lunch, giving them presents at year end or inviting them for golf or a cocktail party are not bribes. These are normal relationship building activities with existing or potential customers.
A bribe is any irregular and underhand gift or incentive, in cash or kind, which is given to a buyer in order to influence their decision in awarding orders. It usually involves giving the order to someone who does not deserve it instead of to the best supplier.
Bribery is common in business globally, but in many countries it is an offence which leads to prosecution and imprisonment, not counting loss of employment. That is a really bad risk to take. In Zimbabwe bribery is worsened by the difficult economic environment in which sales people are desperate to make a sale at all costs, while buyers “need” the bribes to supplement their usually inadequate salaries.
Can you survive in the world of selling without offering bribes? Absolutely! To truly succeed in business you must be ethical and respect all provisions of the law. Billionaire Virgin founder, Richard Branson, said he learned a hard lesson when he tried to evade taxes while building his records business. It nearly destroyed his business when he was caught and heavily penalized, luckily he was not sent to jail; but he learned his lesson and vowed never to willingly break the law again.
Imagine the embarrassment when your bribery efforts are discovered!
Instead of bribing people in order to make a sale, sales people should work on improving their marketing and selling skills. A true sales person does not need to offer a bribe. Instead he arms himself with winning skills. He offers best value. His belief in his product and his selling ability is so deep that he quickly converts prospects into believers and advocates. By communicating to potential customers that his product is the best and that there is nothing better in the world, he gets firms lining up to buy his product. Because he believes in abundance and endless possibilities, he knows there is more than enough business out there for everyone. He does not need to stoop to the poverty related habit of offering bribes.
The qualities and skills of a true salesman can be acquired through learning and practice. I have learned many skills through reading books and articles by those who are successful in their fields.