Whether apocryphal or not, that’s good advice for a producer dealing with a market agent. The salesperson might be full of energy and know everything there is to know about the farmer’s produce, but what does that help if there’s no integrity?
You could even say that integrity is the very essence of the laws that regulate market agents and protect their clients.
The laws also refer to knowledge and skills – read ‘intelligence’ – and are quite specific about the need for a market agent to continually upgrade his or her knowledge and skills. In my training sessions, I tell market agents that this is crucial if they want to survive in this age of intense competition.
After all, their competitors are doing it! ‘Upgrading’ should also include sales, customer and human relations skills, to mention only three.
It’s not a free-for-all!
Product knowledge is also fundamental. “How can you do a proper selling job if you don’t understand the product?” I ask during my sessions.
Markets can be quite basic at times and the niceties of sophisticated selling are sometimes lost in the rough and tumble of one-on-one negotiations. This does not mean that caution must be thrown to the winds and that a free-for-all can follow. No matter the type of negotiation, the need for integrity cannot be compromised.
The last PowerPoint slide I show my students states: “Ethical trading is not a percentage of your time. It is 100% of your behaviour.” Hopefully, this will be a final reminder that integrity is non-negotiable. Warren Buffet is right. If you don’t have integrity, forget about the rest.
Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.