As a salesperson, your success rests largely on quota attainment. Make quota consistently, and you’re a superhero. Miss quota a few months in a row, and everyday inches you closer and closer to a performance plan.
For reps or managers in the latter bucket, desperate times often call for desperate measures. First, maybe hitting the number is a matter of closing a few more deals. Then, suddenly, you’re stretching the truth on features and saying, “Sure, we can do that!” when you’re not sure you can really do that — or worse, you're sure you absolutely cannot do that.
Sales is a notoriously stressful job, and the pressure to fudge the truth with prospects can become overwhelming when your goal is a long way away. But the unpleasant repercussions are not worth it. But before we delve into why lying doesn’t pay, let’s first see why salespeople lie.
Why Do Salespeople Lie?
An “honest salesperson” is a myth and a perfect example of an oxymoron to many. But why do salespeople lie?
We list three reasons why they do. Perhaps after reading this section, you’ll be more sympathetic towards them.
1. They don’t know the product
This is one big reason why the average salesperson distorts the truth. They simply don’t know what a product can or can’t do, so they stretch the truth about its capabilities.
As salespeople, they’re expected to know everything about what they’re selling, so it’ll be pretty embarrassing to admit, “Oh gee, I don’t know whether it can do this.”
2. They want to build a relationship with the customer
Most people have an innate desire to be liked, and salespeople are no exception. Thus, they tickle the ears of the customer because they want them to like them enough to make a purchase.
3. To make more money
No, we aren’t going to skip the primary reason people lie: to make money. Many salespeople lie about products and services to make a quick sale and move on to the next prospect.
Why Salespeople Shouldn’t Lie During the Selling Process
We now look at nine reasons why lying during the selling process is definitely not worth it.
Your new customer won’t be happy for long.
If you promised something that your company can’t deliver on to make a sale, your new client would learn the truth in short order, and warm, fuzzy feelings will turn into buyer’s remorse. By not being 100% honest, you might have sold them a defective product or service for their needs.
They may give you or someone else at your company an earful and leave it at that. Or, they could take to social media to air their grievances — which you never want to happen.
You'll cause damage to you and your company’s reputation.
An angry phone call is bad, but an angry tweet or Facebook post is far worse. Your company just got crossed off vendor shortlists -- not good for your organization’s brand perception or your personal reputation. Reaching trusted advisor status is the goal of many salespeople today, and that’s much harder to do with that type of baggage.
You'll kiss upsell opportunities goodbye.
One of the perks of becoming a trusted advisor in your clients’ eyes is that they’re more receptive to upsell suggestions.
However, if you’ve already shown yourself to be a fibber, why should clients take your word on any additional items? You might have won a quick buck originally, but it could cost you additional revenue in the long run.
You may lose referrals, too.
Referrals are the best. You can skip a large portion of the prospecting and initial interest stages and dive right into the meat of your sales process with a higher success rate. In fact, according to NoMoreColdCalling.com, the close rate for referred clients is about 50%.
But if your new customer has caught you in a lie? I doubt they’ll be referring your company to much of anything, except maybe the door.
You'll risk making internal enemies.
Let’s say you sold a product on a promise for a special kind of support you know your company wouldn’t typically provide. The client signs the contract, and you pass the buck along to the implementation team.
On to the next month? Well, not quite. What happens when the customer starts asking about the support you pledged? You committed another department to something they might not be able to give, and they’ll be understandably upset. Once your colleagues find out who's to blame for their misery, you’ll garner a negative reputation internally.
You’ll contribute to sales stereotypes.
As part of his research for the book To Sell Is Human, Daniel Pink and Qualtrics conducted a survey called “What Do You Do At Work?” The question “When you think of ‘sales’ or ‘selling,’ what’s the first word that comes to mind?” aimed to gauge people’s perception of the sales profession.
If you’re sensitive, you might want to stop here. Among the most prevalent words were “pushy,” “sleazy,” “ugh,” “yuck,” “dishonest,” and “manipulative.”
If you’re a salesperson who takes pride in your work, this is worth bearing in mind. Whenever you bend the truth to make a sale, you feed into the general psyche’s negative perception. Don’t be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your commitment to honesty might just change some deeply-rooted opinions about your industry.
Your customers will realize it.
Your customers are likely more intelligent than you give them credit for. Many can tell when you’re lying to them, skipping important information, or telling them what you think they want to hear.
Because of this, you’re far less likely to make a sale. So while you might meet someone that swallows your lies once in a while, you’ll lose more sales in the long run when you get called out on your lies.
Lying is counterproductive to your goals.
A lying salesperson might have contacted your current prospect, so they didn’t make a purchase. But when you bring honesty to the table, you’ll increase your chances of signing them up or making a sale.
Your self-esteem could suffer.
Having a reputation as an honest salesperson will boost your self-esteem. You’ll be happy knowing that you haven’t tricked or lied your way to making a sale.
A reputation for honesty improves professional and personal relationships. Furthermore, clients who trust your products stay loyal to your company, even through tough times.
Can Sales and Lying be Mutually Exclusive?
Although prospects are wary from the start because of past experiences with lying salespeople, you can set the foundation for a profitable relationship by being honest.
So, don’t ever lie to your clients. It might seem difficult to be upfront with customers, but they’ll appreciate your honesty, and you’ll be proof that sales and lying can be mutually exclusive.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.