The Link Between Corporate & Social Responsibility and SALES
Posted on Oct 31, 2018
In an excerpt taken from my book The Business of Sales – Urgent Memos for Unusual Times – I discuss how important companies will be required to 'walk the line' and live their values for sales success.
“ In the future, it won’t be enough that a company does their part in Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) by being responsible themselves and then engaging with businesses that are not doing their part."
I witnessed early evidence of this in 2009 when a large corporation heading into their RFP season held an invitational event for prospective suppliers, explicitly outlining their expectation and position on carbon footprint, recycling measures, gender and race equality and more. Their selection process was NOT just on product and price but on providing solid evidence of sharing the same values to their company. I recall having to get my hands on actual documentation to submit evidence on how much our company had reduced our carbon footprint. Suppliers were given ‘bonus points’ for employing and supporting Indigenous people. These were actual and specific questions on an online RFP that had nothing to do with the product, service or price but everything to do with what was important to them: Giving preference to doing business with similar like-minded and equally committed companies.
CSR values has a lot to do with who'll you'll end up doing business with - or not.
You can’t be touting ‘diversity’ or 'equality' loosely anymore. Or what you’re doing to impact climate change and then play ball with big offenders like fossil fuel extraction for example. Or you can’t be a big offender yourself, and then expect to do business with companies genuinely committed to working hard on their CSR environmental efforts. Soon, they won’t let you in the door. Being ‘responsible’ will no longer be corporate ‘hyperbole’ to show you’re doing your part in some lame way. Now you have to put your money where your mouth is and have a conscience doing business with other like non-offenders.
Remember when protestors would throw red paint on anyone wearing a fur coat, so it looked like blood? They didn’t kill the animal – they just liked wearing the fur. Well, consumers and customers alike will struggle to patronize or endorse any company for doing business with other companies that are not being responsible. You are guilty by association and participation. You can’t say your reducing gas emissions and then hop into your Lexus SUV that expels 1.15 pounds of carbon dioxide for every single mile.
Sales organizations will prospect similar socially and environmentally responsible organizations.
Now, business development means seeking out customers with common ground. A companies commitment to environmental, social and political causes will have enormous ‘swing factor’ power to meet a buyer's criteria of who they'll do business with in the future. The world will soon demand that companies go ‘all in’ on their set of values and commitments. C-Suite leaders will carry more responsibility as not only leaders of their company but people who have the privilege, position, profile and power to impact far more than their own shareholder gains.
Public procurement and governments all over the world have been moving beyond price for a long time now in what is referred to as ‘sustainable procurement’. Add to that ‘Social Procurement.’ While governments can vary widely across the world on regulations and criteria, more and more private sector companies with global reach are making a big impact and understanding the long term benefits of how CSR efforts actually works to sustain their own business. Even small businesses are making big inroads by demonstrating innovation in sustainabililty and social change. It not only improves the world, it wins hearts and business too.
In the end, consumers will have the final say in how they choose to spend their dollar and what companies to endorse and support and which ones they'll boycott.
There's something bigger going on. Could it be this is how we resolve the world's crisis? By starving the culprits and supporting companies with a conscience?
Product + Price + CSR = Success
Add CSR to your sales team's arsenal. The new Sales Leaders of today have to possess a strong acumen of CSR and how it impacts sales, prospecting, customer retention, business development and even sales strategies. It should already be part of the sales toolkit and training as every sales person should be able to speak eloquently and at length on their company’s culture, values and social/environmental commitments. Sales people will spend far more time demonstrating and providing evidence to customers on what they’re doing. Now, sales must tell the story of how they're helping the world.
None of this diminishes the fact that buyers and procurement are still wanting competitive pricing and quality. Those are the table stakes. But a company that leads a sales team with their strong environmental and social commitments - seriously ups the ante. It adds a whole other level to the buying decision. All things being equal in product and price - the ones most passionately invested in CSR and the world beyond their own is the company that wins. Luckily, the world wins too.