Truth Vs. Lie – What Lie are You Going to Tell Today?

Tell the Truth

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

There something about telling the truth!  It can disarm, humble, or even impress a buyer. The truth builds relationship, even contentious ones.  There is also something else about telling the truth that is even more important: Its the right thing to do and its easy to remember!


You have seen in previous posts my comments about telling the truth in the sales process.  It is without fail that when a sales professional gets immersed in small lies, they graduate to being able to tell the larger ones with aplomb, and without much hesitation.

I will clarify what I mean, and I am almost certain you will know someone who engages in the practices that we are talking about.  The truth has a strange way getting in the way for some sales professionals.  Being honest about the fit of your product and the customer’s needs is an essential part of the process.  If you are caught in a lie in the sales process, your chances of a good relationship are diminished.

What Kind of Lies?

There are several different types of lies that are common in the sales process.  I would suppose that it would be simple to say this a prohibition against lies should apply only to the “big ones.”  To be truthful, that is not correct.  Sprinkling your encounters with customers with lies cannot result in any great advantage worth losing your credibility over.

We spoke in Black Sales Journal 3/31 Credibility – The Goal of the Black Sales Professional,regarding this issue, which is so important.  It cannot be denied that credibility is the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” for the Black sales professional.  You cannot manufacture it, you must earn it, and it can be fleeting if you are not careful.

Lies of Convenience

I am sure that we all believe that there are small imperceptible lies to customers that don’t matter.  They are small, and meant to be “convenient” type lies.  This is convenient for whom? I think you get it.  The small lie, which is told to the customer, is for the convenience of someone else.  It may be that you cannot get delivery until next month, even though the product is needed next week.  Missing this sale would be better than losing the confidence of customer.

If you are lying for convenience, rethink it.  That small lie for convenience can break any confidence and trust you have if you get exposed.  Think of your relationship with the customer based on the “life value” of the customer.  The total amount of business that you can get from this particular buyer, whether he/she stays at this current organization or not, is what should be considered, this year, the following year, and the years after.  The total of this is the life value.  To guess at it, multiply the value of the average sale (in dollars) times the average amount of transaction or sales that will occur in the life of that relationship.  Sometimes, you might find yourself surprised by the size of that number.

The confidence that you maintain with the buyer will go well past the fact that you don’t deliver in a particular instance.  Tell the truth and you will be recognized for delivering “when you say you will.”

Lies in the Middle

Obviously, these are not necessarily big, but they do happen. Yes, there are sales professionals who would tell something other than the truth about their product or service to get the commission or bonus. The problem comes when the performance is not there, and someone loses confidence in you and your product or service.  Knowing the features and benefits of your product or service, is what you do.  You can easily substitute, or contrast a different feature when you know your product/service is not the leader in particular area.  When you say things about your product/service, or your organization that are misrepresentations, it may be sales talk, but it is still a lie in the eyes of a customer.

Lies to avoid embarrassment or cover for mistakes are lies told which could be avoided.

Lies for Profit – The Big Ones

If you know someone who is telling lies to consummate the sale, and thus pocket commissions or bonuses, then they are involved in the “big one.”  I only say this because if they can twist the truth for the self of self-aggrandizement, I suppose that they have decided that this is a job, and not a career.  It will catch up with them at some point.  Obviously, no suggestion in a journal like this will change their mind.

I will say a couple of things about the process of lying in sales.  In a profession where relationships change everything, a lie can change the landscape.

A Case for the Truth

The energy expended on the lie, and the “maintenance of the lie” is consuming.  Additionally, the truth is easy to remember. No need to expound on this issue.  So it is noble to tell the truth, and may expose you to some chagrin, yet we all make mistakes, forget, and have errors in judgment.

Resort to the truth and you will find that the best customer is the one that appreciates you because you are an honest professional.  Sales professionals who tell the truth don’t always get the business, yet they secure and grow relationships.

Some sales roles are transactional, but for some of the best compensated it is a relationship game.  Don’t forget it!

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Are You Tempted to Cheat?

Are you ever tempted to cheat?  Do you know some of your sales associates who have “went out of bounds” in this profession where they may be convinced that no one is watching?  Never give in to the temptation!


I worked for a sales organization that believed in having sprint contests as well as sales incentives.  It was the nature of the beast to have a contest that had incentive trips, as many organizations have, as well as to have a contest to introduce, or spur the sales of slower moving products.

But this contest was different; it involved a sprint contest that would ‘pay’ on the basis of activity and not actual sales of the product.  In other words, you could get paid on the basis of working on something as opposed to the success of selling it.  Quite strange that an organization would be so desperate to get its sales professionals to work on a new product that they pay on the basis of working on it as opposed to the norm of selling the product.

Here is what I witnessed:

Sales reps in our office were buzzing as they talked about this new ‘program’ that they would be paid to deliver quotations on a new retirement product for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  You got paid for selling it, and if you did not sell it, you got paid in prizes and merchandise for getting to business owners to sit down and discuss it with you even if you did not sell it.  What could be better than that?

The unintended consequence of the contest was that unscrupulous sales professionals could easily augment their real activity with false activity in order to walk with some valuable prizes. As a matter of fact they could totally fabricate enough activity to walk away with stereos, televisions, sporting equipment, and gift certificates.  And that is just what happened.

The sales staff was tempted to ‘pad’ activity and those without morals did just that and were rewarded with a bounty of electronics and other items.  As a sales manager and a manager of sales managers for that same organization later in my career, it was clearly the example for what program never to undertake again.

Play Fair… Everywhere!

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than to win by cheating.”

Yes, companies can decide what programs not to implement again, but the bigger story here is not that there was a ‘dumb’ program; it is that when the moment availed itself, these sales professionals ‘cheated’ for trinkets.

They took the opportunity to ‘fudge’ their activity sheets for some items that they could already afford!  That is the problem with cheating.  Sales professionals work by a system, and the system can be ‘gamed’.   Even more, in most cases no one is watching many of the activities.

Mr. or Mrs. Clean

The impression that you will want to leave on your employer will be based on a squeaky clean image, which negates any perception that you might cheat.  The perception that you may cheat is as damaging as cheating itself.  You need to be Mr. or Mrs. Clean.  I have had this conversation with Black sales professionals on numerous occasions while mentoring.

With that in mind, you should note that if I were your sales manager, perception of your propensity to cheat would be based on some important points:

  • If you will cheat your fellow sales professional or co-employee, you will cheat me!
  • If you will cheat the IRS you will cheat me!
  • If you will cheat on your wife, you will cheat me!

Cheating obviously occurs in more than the workplace.  In the areas that are above we must consider the possibility that if it is known you violated the truth, you can possibly do it to your employer.  You may have no intent to do it to your employer, but the perception that you could do it is what can damage you.

Your personal life is yours, but says a lot about you.  It helps you establish your credibility (Read This - BSJ 4/16– Credibility …You Can’t Buy it, You’ve Got to Earn It!) as well as build a positive perception of yourself as I stated BSJ 4/9/2012 Build a Positive Perception.

Cheating in the workplace includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Expense management
  • Handling of company property (cars, computers, etc.)
  • Your time management (while you are supposed to be working)
  • Your sales prospect data

Protect you future and your career.  Put your energy into maintaining credibility and winning the right way.  Remember, it is always easier to tell the truth! (Read it in BSJ 6/30/2011 Telling the Truth…It Works Wonders for a Relationship).

Be the Best.

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