How Salespeople Make Customers Lie

I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I ask my clients if they have any problems, which I’m pretty sure they have, and quite frankly, I think they aren’t responding truthfully.”  It is amazing how many clients tells salespeople they don’t have any issues whatsoever and just don’t need what they have to sell them.  The fact is that most buyers are not telling the truth!  It happens so often, and to so many people, that there’s a sales slogan that most salespeople have heard from time-to-time: 

“Buyers can be liars.

Well, I’m here to say that it’s time to stop blaming customers for not being as honest as we’d like them to be.  It’s not their fault; it’s ours.  There are two reasons why customers are being less than truthful…

The first reason is that far too often, salespeople jump into asking customers about challenges they may be experiencing too quickly.  Before the customer knows you well, those questions will make them uncomfortable.  For example, let’s say I was trying to sell you on accounting services.  You were kind enough to meet with me and have a conversation about the solution you are currently using.  I even went so far as to assure you I wanted to get to know you and your business and was prepared to ask questions and listen.

Sounds good so far, right?  As a matter of fact, what I have said might just begin to warm you up for a nice friendly conversation.  Then I go and spoil it all with my first question: “Do you have problems with your current accountant?”

To begin with, I don’t think this person would be sitting in front of you if they did not have some issues with his or her current accountant.  However, talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  With this question, you are crossing into an area that requires a great deal of trust.  In a split-second, the customer’s mind is racing and it most likely sounds something like this:

“Do I have a problem with my accountant?  Let’s see.  If I answer that question yes, I am probably committing to something or I might have to buy something.  Heck, I’m not sure if I really want to change accountants or not.  Do I have a problem with my accountant…”

The answer you hear is far simpler.  “No.”  Now that “no” will probably be followed up with an excuse or a lie as to why he is there talking to you, but chances are that the customer’s nose is about to grow.  What’s worse, you pushed this customer into telling you that lie.  Before you get too angry at our customer here, please remember this: You’ve probably told quite a number of these little lies yourself.  

If you want your customers to be truthful with you, you have to earn the right to get at these more difficult questions.  You earn it by asking questions that are open, related to your customer’s particular situation, and without even a hint of dysfunction.  You’ll end up getting honest answers, and one very important thing that’s vital to any salesperson’s success; you’ll generate trust.

I mentioned there is one other reason customers can be less than truthful, and if you look at the question that was asked, it’s there front and center.  “Do you have problems with your current accountant?”  See it?  Clients hate when salespeople use the word, “problem.”  Do you have a problem with that?  It comes off sounding a little aggressive, and a bit disrespectful.  Customers may have challenges, obstacles, barriers, issues, concerns, and more, and the words you choose may determine what kind of answers you get.  I’d encourage you to use the words I just listed. Most customers don’t appreciate you asking them about their problems, and they’ll often pull back even if they do.

So, with a little patience, and the right words, you’ll see that customers are more than willing to tell you the truth. Furthermore, they will often be open to seeing the wisdom of your solution, and that’s a win-win for everyone!. 

Related: What’s the Most Underrated Part of a Sales Call?