Lying is the toughest part of being a salesman. No, not me lying, but people like you assuming that I–the salesperson–am lying. Expecting the worst of salespeople seems to bring out the worst in prospects.
Years ago, I heard that one of my clients had been put in charge of a major new project. Expecting more business, I went to his office and said, “Congratulations on getting Project X.”
He looked me in the eye–looked me in the eye!–and said, “That’s not my project.”
“Who’s got it?” I asked.
“It hasn’t been approved,” he said.
I was in a meeting a few days later where he reported on Project X, that he had been running for weeks. Weeks! I was stunned, but he didn’t even react to my glare. Lying to a salesman apparently isn’t worth being embarrassed about.
Most people lie everyday, according to Professor Bella M. De-Paulo and other researchers. The most common lies are told to friends, to spare them from the truth.
I got accustomed to being mislead by prospects, but a few years ago a purchasing agent still managed to shock me. She told me about a salesman who was extraordinarily arrogant and rude at their first meeting.
“So, I guess that was the last time he got in to see you?”
“Oh, no,” she said with a devilish smile, “I let him keep flying across the country to see me, even set-up a full-day demo with a bunch of his technical people. But he never had a chance.”
“You mean it didn’t even matter if his product was better for your company?”
“He was dead meat.”
Why, I wondered, are nice people such jerks to salespeople? Then, a prospect laid it out for me.
He liked the apartment I had for rent, so he immediately signed the lease and wrote a check. Next day, the check bounces. He’d put a stop payment on it! I called him and he said, “There was another place I liked better, but I was afraid I wouldn’t get it, so I wanted to hold yours.”
“But you signed a contract. You wrote a check. I turned other people away and got stuck with an empty apartment. How could you do that?”
What he said next explained it all. Many people–probably even you–will agree with him, but still it floored me with its bold simplicity.
“Hey, you’re a salesman. I figure you’re lying to me so its okay to lie to you.”
I figure you’re lying to me so its okay to lie to you.
I suppose that’s why it’s okay to tell salespeople “She’s in a meeting.” or “If it were up to me, we’d go with you.” or, my favorite, “Send me a proposal and I’ll think about it.” Sure, the only one thinking about it is going to be me, the salesman.
Expecting the worst of salespeople seems to bring out the worst in prospects.
The best way to get honesty from prospects and clients is to be totally honest with them.
Remove the following phrases from your speech:
- “…to be honest…”
- “…to tell you the truth…”
When you send a signal of “now I am going to start telling you the truth,” your prospect can’t help thinking, “Has he been lying up to now?” That isn’t what you meant, is it?
Try these phrases instead,
- “My I be blunt with you?”
- “This may seem harsh…”
- “At the risk of seeming rude…”
- “My personal opinion is…”
These do not undermine the credibility of your other statements and probably are closer to what you honestly mean.
Hi Tony … good article
I’d like your permission to include it in a section of an eBook I’m writing – “How To Sell More In A Down Market” – obviously I would give you full credit and include a link to your blog for sales people.
Thank you for your consideration.
I’ve been in sales, one way or another, most of my adult life. Though I’ve experienced plenty wasted time, most of it was my own fault. Trying to have things happen ahead of their time, or not properly setting up my clients to make a strong and well timed decision.
Sorry my friend, I’m not buying what you are selling in this post. Furthermore, what you state will unwittingly reinforce the us/them dynamic for people in a sales that IS the #1 thing in the way of success…
If we revenue producers connect with our prospects from the best place in ourselves (Essence), and require your prospects to be real with us — they will honor the relationship the vast majority of the time. Often this means asking them to speak a NO you sense is there — or more often allowing scores of ‘not nows’ to sift thru to the handful of ‘ripe fruit’.
As for the spiteful people in the world…. we know them when we smell them,don’t we. Behind any mask. There are WAY too many people who need our services to waste time with them…
Great post Tony!
Sales is a tough profession. I sold for over 24 years and did it my way. I was up front and always honest. I did not sell as much as I my peers however at least I could sleep at night.
Now the scenario regarding the purchasing agent. They were both at fault. One, the salesperson was totally unprofessional. Two, the purchasing agent was as well. She should have been *blunt* and to the point and told the salesperson what he was doing. She could have helped him.
I think sometimes people lie as a way to be polite. Directness is often viewed as being rude in our society. My experience is that salespeople don’t always listen for the “polite” queues that prospects are giving them. Here’s a piece I wrote on how we qualify (or disqualify) a prospect:
Neat post. I had never considered that a prospect was lying to me. Reading your post, I realized that when they had, I would go on to the next, figuring it’s too hard to put a transaction together with a dysfunctional partner.
I have seen prospects get fired for that behavior when I completed the transaction with someone else in the organization.