We are all in sales

Published 20 November 2019

Turning business ethics compliance into a competitive advantage and shaping the company culture to support a sustainable and profitable business is a good bet!



Signe Elbaek
Chief Compliance Officer

Getting things moving

The Business Ethics & Compliance departments are growing in many companies. They draft policies and procedures; they train people; they control, monitor and conduct audits. They are skilled and they are hardworking. So why do we still see misconduct in reputable companies of all shapes and sizes? How come it doesn’t change, or at least is only changing slowly? How come many compliance professionals seem to look a little greyer every time you meet them because they are worn down by conflicts and the slow pace of progress?

We are all in sales

I tend to believe that it’s all down to sales. Now you may think that yet another tirade on bad apples in the sales force is coming, but it’s not. What are salespeople good at? Selling! How? Well, ask any salesperson and they will tell you that the art of sales is not so much about what you are selling, but more about getting someone to see the world the way you do. Let’s face it – we are all in sales! Consequently, compliance professionals should get into sales…of Business Ethics Compliance. That may be more easily said than done for the standard compliance professional, because oftentimes there is a reason why you started out doing compliance and not sales, but you will need to acquire a taste for selling if you want to seriously move the compliance needle in your company.

The compliance ad

Honestly speaking, how many of you compliance professionals reading this post have used the “scary slide” – you know, the one with the list of all of the bad cases and the jail convictions, the fines and the corporate integrity agreements – to convince your audience that they should take compliance seriously?

How many of you have bought soap or any other goods because you were scared into doing it?

“Do you want to die from germs? If not – buy my soap!” will most likely not hit the top 3 advertisements of the year in the soap business, don’t you think? Because it doesn’t feel good to be scared! But most people would like to be clean, smell good and be attractive. And that is what most soap ads will speak to. Why should selling and advertising Business Ethics & Compliance be any different?

Identifying the selling points

So how do you write the ideal Business Ethics & Compliance ad? First of all, you will need to research your target audience and tailor your selling points to the specific audience in your company. The relevant selling points will vary by audience and by the company’s compliance maturity. Where is the company now on its compliance journey and where do you envision it going in three years’ time? Is the audience the executive management or the sales function? What’s in it for your audience to adopt your vision?

The “If you don’t, you will go to jail” selling point may get a few buyers, but not because they really like it. It’s the “scary slide” again. What will they like? Turning business ethics compliance into a competitive advantage and shaping the company culture to support a sustainable and profitable business is a good bet! It’s my contention that showing your audience how this can happen and supporting them in getting there will move the Business Ethics & Compliance needle in you company much faster than the “scary slide.”

I look forward to discussing this in further detail in February in Zürich.


8th Annual
Corporate Compliance and Transparency in Life Sciences
20 - 21 February 2019 Zurich, Switzerland