Business Sales professionals act a lot more unethical than their colleagues in for example Finance, Supply chain and Marketing. Almost 28% of sales professionals indicated that they give personal gifts / services to customers to win and maintain business. On average, this is about 15% across all functions within the business. The same trend is observed in other unethical practices such as offering cash payments or inviting clients to entertainment events.
This is evident from the study 'EMEIA Fraud Survey 2013' of accounting and consultancy Ernst & Young, a survey of more than 3,000 employees of large companies in 36 countries.
Offering customers gifts is the most popular unethical practice used. In developed countries this occurs on average in 15% of the cases, in growing economies the percentage is slightly higher (20%). The sales function stands out, with 28% of sales employees admitting to using gifts to lure lucrative business. Although it can be common practice to provide gifts within certain legal boundaries, in this case respondents were asked to indicate cases which are considered "unethical" - in a grey or even red area. Second most popular method used by sales professionals is invitations to entertainment events such as dinners, concerts or media shows. 18% of sales people do so in an unethical manner, compared to an average of 13% throughout the rest of the business.
According to Angelique Keijsers, partner of Ernst & Young's Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services, companies must do more to combat fraud by sales professionals. The role of management and resources for the training of staff is crucial. "To promote integrity among employees, the tone at the top and training are of great importance". She also indicates that more attention should be paid to active detection and sanctioning fraudulent business.