Why salespeople lie to their clients
Ask most people to describe a salesperson, and likely as not, you’ll find yourself deluged by words like "huckster," "snake oil peddler," "fast talker," "con artist" and, of course, "untrustworthy," "arrogant" and "dishonest." You’re right – it’s not fair, it’s just the way it is.
Funny thing is I hardly ever meet a sales professional who hasn’t at least once used a term like those above to describe another sales professional they had a bad experience with! Sometimes, we even dislike our own kind…..
We wonder exactly what we ever did to earn such an enviable reputation. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, those of us who sell for a living do so in an environment created by a few highly visible unscrupulous salespeople, who are more interested in making a short-term buck than they are in creating long-term profitable relationships with their clients.
Even the most well meaning salespeople lie on occasion, and when they’re caught (as they almost invariably are), this only serves to further poison their relationships with their customers – and the selling environment for all of us.
In general, there are three key reasons why salespeople are dishonest with their clients:
- They don’t know their product. Some salespeople lie by accident because they’re unsure or uninformed about the products they’re selling. In many cases, they lie simply because they’re too embarrassed to say, "I don’t know."
- They’re too empathetic. Some salespeople lie because they’re insecure about themselves, or their relationship with their prospect. The driving factor for these salespeople is: "I just want the customer to like me!" so they stretch the truth to tell the customer what they think they want to hear. Lying then becomes an inappropriate vehicle to build a friend first, and a customer second.
- They’re only focused on the money. Some salespeople see lying as an easy way to make a quick buck. Salespeople who lie for this reason do it because they want the prospect to move too quickly, so that they can make a quick sale, pocket the commission – and move on to the next prospect.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of prospects have encountered these lies and these situations before. As a result, they’re conditioned to expect a certain experience from the sales process. They assume they know how a salesperson will act, and they base their responses on that assumption.
In many cases, prospects become so good at predicting sales behaviors that they become experts at manipulating the sales process to get exactly what they want, often at the expense of the salesperson.
Why clients lie to salespeople
Of course, when it comes to sales, truth telling (or the lack thereof) works both ways. Why do so many prospects have so much trouble telling the truth when dealing with salespeople?
One of the most common reasons is that they have been lied to by a salesperson in the past, and are only trying to "give back" a little of what they have "gotten". They’ll lie to avoid an annoying sales pitch. They’ll lie to protect themselves against overly persistent phone calls and email follow-ups, or to avoid being pressured into making a decision. They’ll lie to protect their reputations, their budgets, their time and their jobs.
Most of all, they’ll lie because they automatically assume all salespeople are liars, and they want to make a pre-emptive strike before they are lied to.
Think about how salespeople are commonly portrayed in popular culture. Movies such as Tin Men, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Tommy Boy and Glengarry Glen Ross don’t exactly paint a flattering portrait of our profession. The result is that we who do want to excel legitimately at our chosen profession have a pretty swift current to row against.
But while it may be difficult, it’s not an impossible challenge. Gaining the trust of your customers and potential clients just takes a little extra effort and forethought – as well as complete dedication to honesty in how you conduct your business.
The secret to sales success
Successful salespeople all use a range of different styles and techniques, but they also all share one key thing in common: they know that honest communication is the single most important secret to increasing sales, and commissions.
By focusing their efforts on creating a positive customer experience based on openness and trust, these top performers can almost always rely on an extraordinary level of repeat sales. Nine times out of ten, their customers would simply never even think of looking elsewhere when they need to reorder. As we all know, it’s far easier – and far more profitable – to keep repeat business, than it is to land a whole new account.
So what’s the "secret" to establishing and maintaining credibility in the eyes of your clients?
Don’t lie. Ever. End of story.
Lies not only damage the ability of salespeople to communicate with their clients. They can also result in a complete communication breakdown that is difficult – or even impossible – to repair.
Consider what the consequences of this kind of breakdown in communication and trust can be. According to Fred Reichheld, author of Loyalty Rules, North American companies lose roughly half of their customers every five years, half of their employees every four years, and half of their investors in less than one year. These numbers represent corporate losses that are nothing short of staggering. Why does this happen year after year?
In my view, most of these losses are caused by communication breakdowns in three primary areas:
- During the sales cycle with potential new prospects;
- Following unsatisfactory after-sales service (or add-on sales) between salespeople and clients; and
- Among co-workers in unpleasant or stressful work environments.
In addition to the lost sales and revenues that these breakdowns represent, there are also numerous hidden costs to consider. Losing customers to misunderstandings or a lack of trust can dramatically reduce your satisfaction in your work, as well as the satisfaction that your clients have about you and your company’s services or products.
Worse yet, it can ruin your reputation – and your ability to earn future business.
If business is still growing, why should we care?
In research conducted by Engage Selling, Harvard Business review and the Sales Executive Council over the past 20 years, we’ve found that only 10% of salespeople in any organization are what we might call "top performers" – those who regularly close at least half of their qualified prospects. At the other end of the spectrum is another 20% comprised of under performers, as well as those who are new, and those who are on their way out.
The remaining 70% of salespeople fall into a broad category that is best described as the "average majority". To be fair, being an average performer isn’t a terrible thing to be – these sales reps will close about one out of every three qualified prospects. But few sales professionals would ever choose to be considered average, especially when the tools to become a top performer are easily within their grasp.
Just consider the missed opportunities! While they regularly hit their average targets, these salespeople are missing out on over two-thirds of the sales they could potentially close. This means that, for every $300k in potential sales in your pipeline, you’re leaving a whopping $200k on the table – or to the competition.
No one likes to feel like they’ve missed an opportunity. And – let’s face it – now more than ever, no one can afford to lose sales. So what does it take to go from being simply average to becoming a top-ranked sales professional?
Join us next newsletter as we reveal some of the most common lies and dishonest statements
sales people make – and what to do instead. As well as some proven results and innovative
ideas to ensure you have the best year ever!!