Chapter 3
Ethical Guidelines for Reviewing Sales Tools

The important points addressed in this lesson are:

The term "sales tools" includes almost everything used by the financial services practitioner to create interest in purchasing or keeping financial products.
Information contained on the practitioner's letterhead and business cards must be sufficient to identify the practitioner and his or her company without misleading the prospect.
Advertising and direct mail present special ethics challenges because their necessary brevity makes it impossible for them to provide full disclosure.
Personal brochures give the practitioner an opportunity to showcase his or her experience, education, skills and credentials but must not mislead the prospect.
Magazine articles published under the practitioner's name are generally designed to position him or her as an expert in the subject of the article; an ethical problem may arise if that implication is incorrect.

In the discussion so far, we have spent time in establishing the legal foundation for compliance and the philosophical underpinnings of ethics.  It is now time to deal with the more concrete and begin an examination of the ethical guidelines for the sales tools that agents use.

The sales tools that agents and other financial services practitioners generally use include:

stationery and business cards
advertising and direct mail
personal brochures
magazine and other articles

 In fact, the term "sales tools" includes almost everything that the practitioner uses to communicate with the prospect or client that is designed to create interest in purchasing or keeping the products sold by the practitioner.  Falling into that broad general category are the stationery and business cards used, the advertising placed, the direct mail sent, the personal brochures that are distributed, the magazine articles that are written, the seminar scripts used and the product illustrations presented.  

Every communications medium designed to influence a decision to purchase or retain a product that is seen or heard by the client or prospective client should be considered a sales tool.  Although this interprets sales tools broadly, it may be no broader than the courts would interpret the term.  The overriding sales tools ethical issue is that they convey information fairly and honestly without misleading the client.