Is a Lie Always a Lie?

So you’re in sales and the company you work for has been caught in an apparent lie. So now what?

My first recommendation is to take a breath. It’s amazing how much breathing helps in almost every situation. One way it helps is to give you time to think. There are are few things in particular that you should be thinking about. 

First, was the “apparent” lie really a lie. It could just be a misunderstanding born of poor communication. When additional facts are understood the “lie” may not be a lie at all. When you’re shocked by something you find hard to believe get as many facts as possible before labeling any information a lie. 

If it turns out that it was in fact a lie then you need to determine whether it was a lie created by malice or a lie created by incompetence. Neither is good but somehow, at least for me, I find it better to be lied to by an incompetent person than a truly deceitful one. Determining if it was a lie that came from incompetence or malice may come down to a gut call. Trust your gut, always trust your gut. Those instincts or that intuition are developed from your life experiences. If you can keep your emotions in check then your instincts are very often correct. 

If you decide that the lie is more of a mistake caused by incompetence then you have to decide if it’s a “one off” kind of lie or if a pattern of incompetence causes this kind of thing to happen often. Remember, if you’re representing this company in the marketplace your reputation is on the line as well and to your customers, a lie is a lie is a lie. They don’t really care where it came from. 

If you decide that the lie was a pure intentionally fabricated misstatement then you have some tough choices to make. You have to determine if you’re willing to work for that kind of organization and the kind of people who run it. You also have to understand that supporting the lie, either by ignoring it or worse, repeating it, makes you a liar as well. The only thing I’ll say about that is if you’re lying to get business then you may make some money but you’ll never be a success. 

And the lies will be exposed eventually, they ALWAYS are. 

Let’s not forgot about the what may be the worst lie of all, the “half-truth” lie. Have you ever watched a movie or TV show with courtroom scenes? Remember the oath that witnesses must swear to? They swear to not just tell the truth but to tell the “whole truth.” 

Lord Tennyson said, “That a lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies. That a lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright; but a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.” 

Professional salespeople tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you’re not doing that then you fail at the first test of professional selling, and that’s the test the matters most. 

Are You a Sales Manager or a Sales Leader?

If you’re responsible for the sales team in your organization I hope you understand the difference between managing your sales team and leading them. I also hope you’re doing both. 

But it’s very likely you’re only doing one of them and that the one you’re doing is managing. 

That’s because somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% of Sales Managers were promoted to Sales Manager because they were excellent salespeople. When they were promoted they were told to manage the sales team. No one ever said a word about leading them. 

Most Sales Managers manage their sales teams the same way they were managed. If their manager happened to also be a leader then they may do some leading. But for the most part Sales Managers just manage and don’t even realize they aren’t leading. 

Solid sales management is essential for a steady consistent growth in sales. But the only path to explosive sales growth is leadership. I have seen company after company invest millions of dollars over years and years to develop their sales team.  All while spending virtually nothing, or actually nothing, to develop their sales leaders. 

I guess that’s not surprising considering somewhere between 70-80% of people in leadership positions have less than 1 hour of formal leadership training during their careers. That’s less than 1 hour, as in 60 minutes. It’s like buying one car after another without an engine and wondering why none of them get you anywhere. 

Some organizations have managers who can’t lead and some have leaders who can’t manage. So long as an organization has both they can do just fine. But the most successful organizations have managers who can lead and leaders who can manage. They understand the difference between the two and move seamlessly back and forth. 

But for a person in a Sales Management role to be effective they MUST be both manager and leader. 

As a Sales Manager they define territories, they set quotas, they hold people accountable, (as do Sales Leaders) they analyze numbers and help put deals together. They manage the “stuff” that goes into selling. 

A Sales Leader is focused on the people who sell and frequently on the people who buy. They are the motivator that salespeople need. They are the coaches they wish they had when they were actively selling. They teach, they listen, and most of all they show they care about the people on the front lines of selling. Their salespeople. They lead the people in selling.

To any company looking to train their salespeople I would say it’s one of the best investments you can make in your organization. But I’d also say don’t forget your sales leaders. Investing in real leadership training for your sales leaders is a force multiplier that pays dividends year after year. 

Or you can sit in your bright shiny new engineless car and wonder what’s over that next horizon. 

Creating Permanent Success

As a very young salesperson I had some early success. I had no idea why but I enjoyed what I was doing and as far as I knew, I was selling.

I had an engineering degree and fell into sales completely by accident. That by the way is how a great many salespeople enter the profession of selling. Not too long into my sales career some of the Corporate big shots came to town and scheduled rides with our sales team. I was less than pleased when I discovered that on 3 consecutive days I’d have one of the big shots with me.

I assumed it wouldn’t take someone as smart as these guys claimed to be to figure out that despite my early success I really had no idea what I was doing. I apparently figured wrong.

In their report they said I was the best salesperson they had ever worked with. One of them made a comment that I could sell ice to an Eskimo. So my Sales Manager starting asking me questions about what I did when the big shots were with me.

I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary stuff I did every day and I had no clue as to why they said what they said about me. Then some smart guy asked me exactly what I would do to sell ice to an Eskimo.

I thought for a minute and then it began to dawn on me why I might be having some of that early success.

My answer was I wouldn’t sell ice to an Eskimo in the first place because they didn’t need any.

To this day that philosophy is what has helped separate me from common salespeople. I get the financial aspects of selling crap to people that they don’t need. But selling something to someone who doesn’t need it is not a sustainable strategy for success in sales.

Manipulating someone for your benefit at the cost of their wellbeing, be it financial or otherwise is not a sustainable strategy for success in life.

When I finally figured out what was helping me succeed in sales I became more intentional about building relationships, trust and friendships. That required that I find out exactly how my product could help people. It required that I know enough about a particular customer to know precisely how my product could help them.

That caused me to walk away from a good many potential sales and while I lost a few sales I never lost a customer. Helping your customers, being honest with them at all times, having the courage to occasionally disagree with them and always keeping their best interests in mind are the keys to long-term, sustainable sales success.

If anyone tells you otherwise they do not have your best interests in mind.

“Selling by helping” is the sales philosophy I’ve taught for a long time. I started doing training for two reasons, one was to help more people have better buying experiences with the salespeople they dealt with. The other was to help more salespeople have long-term success and make lots of money doing it.

The selling professional can be very rewarding, “selling by helping” increases those rewards ten-fold. It is also the certain path to permanent sales success.

Calm Seas

I’ve never met a sailor who didn’t prefer sailing on calm seas. Who can blame them, it’s just easier. Everyone likes easy.

But here’s the thing, almost all of us are paid to navigate choppy seas. If you’re in sales this is especially true. Sales by my definition is changing someone’s attitude from neutral or even negative about your product, to a positive attitude. Positive enough to buy your product or service.

Those “seas” of changing someone’s attitude can be very very choppy.

If you’re in any type of customer service role you almost never experience calm seas. Customers seldom call or show up at your counter to tell you everything is perfect. It’s just the opposite, almost 100% of the customers you deal with are unhappy and it’s your job to turn that unhappiness into sheer delight. Sometimes the seas you navigate aren’t only choppy, they are downright hurricane like.

Almost every job and position have challenges. Thank goodness for that. If they were easy, if there were no headwinds, if there were never any problems, a whole lotta people would be out of work.

If customers were convinced your products were always the best and provided the best value then your company wouldn’t need any salespeople. If nothing ever broke then service people would be a thing of the past. If every customer was delighted every single time the role of customer service person would be history.

If there were no problems in business then a whole bunch of businesses would need a lot less people. You would never see the term “problem solver” on a résumé again.

All that being the case I find it amazing how many salespeople dislike having to convince people to buy their products. Service people can get bitter over constantly having to fix things that break. I’ve heard many people in customer service roles say how much easier their jobs would be if the customers would all just go away.

You and everyone else are not paid to sail your organization’s ship on calm seas. You are paid to navigate the rough spots. Your role likely exists in one way or another to solve or overcome problems. The very problems you may complain about from time to time, or maybe even more often than that.

When you stop and think of it like that it doesn’t make much since to complain…does it? So don’t complain! Be thankful for the challenges your job provides you because it’s those challenges that provide your income.

No job is perfect. No job is always easy. Every job has its challenges and that might be the best news you’ll hear all week.

The Newest Competitor for Sales

A tough new competitor has just re-entered the sales game. This competitor has invaded almost every industry. Whatever you’re selling this competitor is lurking under the surface of every sales opportunity. Sometimes they are not even under the surface, they are sitting boldly on top of YOUR sales opportunity.

This competitor is particularly nasty too. They aren’t even interested in stealing business for themselves. The only thing they want to do is wreck the deal for everyone. They want the salesperson to go away empty handed. Worse, they want to leave the customer empty handed and with no help too.

The name of this competitor is NO! No has a twin sister who has entered the fray as well. Her name is Not Now. If you’re newer to sales you may not be familiar with these formidable competitors. But if you’re not careful they can be much tougher than the competitors you normally face.

The competitor named No and his sister Not Yet are always around but they thrive in uncertain times. They last entered the profession of selling in 2008 and 2009. They were pervasive enough to end the sales careers of many unprepared and unprofessional salespeople. The bad news is that many sales are being lost to No and Not Yet in the current business environment. The good news is that a great many of those lost sales are not truly lost, they are merely delayed.

It is vital that sales professionals understand that while No and Not Yet can slow a sale down they can’t stop it completely.

As effective as No and Not Yet can seem they are readily defeated by replacing the unknowns of today with the information that customers will need tomorrow.

The best salespeople seldom lose a deal to No in uncertain times and they never lose a sale to Not Yet. Product peddlers float to the sidelines when No and Not Yet enter the game. Professional Salespeople hold their ground and expose No and Not Yet as imposters who only want the worst for customers.

Information erases the unknown. If No and Not Yet try to get between you and the customers you’re trying to help STAY IN THE GAME. Provide your customers with the best information you can. Industry information, product information, problem-solving information and whatever advice you can offer based on your own expertise.

Don’t float away from your customers and leave them alone in the vastness of the current unknowns. They may not remember exactly what you’ve done for them in the presence of No and Not Yet but they will certainly remember how you made them feel.

Make them feel like more than a customer. Make them feel as if they matter as a person because in fact they do. Sales right now is far more about helping people than it is about closing a deal. That’s actually always true but it is vital right now.

It’s likely you’re not spending as freely as you were a month ago. Neither are your customers. But one day your own unknowns will be gone and you’ll feel safer spending again. That too will be the same for your customers.

If you can stay with your customers in the presence of No and Not Yet today then your customers will be there for you tomorrow when No and Not Yet have faded away until the next time of uncertainty.

Today’s Effort Determines Tomorrow’s Success

Many times towards the end of a year salespeople sort of “coast” their way towards the New Year.

In times of uncertainty many salespeople do the same thing, they take their foot off the gas and stop selling. It’s a mistake at the end of a year and it’s a mistake in these times of uncertainty.

“Sales” are different right now than they are in more normal times. But different does not mean impossible. “Sales” in their current state might also not mean making a sale. It may be, and likely is, more about being available to your customers. It most definitely is about staying in touch and keeping your lines of communication open.

Whatever secondary methods of communication you used to communicate with your customers prior to our current situation are now most likely your primary methods. By secondary I mean texts, email and phone calls. Your primary method was face-to-face and in most cases that’s not possible at the moment.

If you somehow can make face-to-face calls and both you and your customer are comfortable with it then I guess that’s fine….so long as it is SAFE FOR OTHERS AND IN NO VIOLATION OF CURRENT LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL GUIDELINES.

How ever you do it, you must stay visible to your customers. You must remain a resource to whatever extent you can. You must remain willing to help. In fact, I’d recommend each communication include that very question; “How can I help?” Or “What can I do for you right now?”

Beyond some sort of personal contact with your customer there are many other sales activities you can undertake. Many many salespeople had things, productive things, that they were going to do “someday.” We’ll guess what, someday has arrived!

You know the stuff you were going to do “someday” but never had the time to do. Things likes reviewing notes from accounts that haven’t purchased from you in a long time, or maybe ever. While “someday” is still going on review those notes to determine what you will do differently to earn that customer’s business when personal selling becomes possible again.

Now is also a great time to prepare and practice responses to your most common objections. And by the way, the most professional and prosperous salespeople practice those responses out loud.

We should talk a bit about prospecting. I am not an expert like Mark Hunter @thesaleshunter is. But I’m thinking if you’re going to attempt to prospect right now you must tread very lightly. It just seems almost inappropriate to me. But like I said, others know far more about this topic in times like these than I do so I could of course be wrong…but I don’t think so.

That doesn’t mean however that you can’t prepare new prospecting materials. Prospecting emails, letters, leave behind materials and phone scripts. You can even practice your phone presentation so it doesn’t sound scripted. Just so you know, if you ever call me and it sounds like you’re reading a script, I will never buy from you. Most people are like me, they won’t either.

I have been in and around sales a very long time. I don’t believe we have ever experienced anything like this. With other major disruptions we have faced we could see or at least predict what the end might look like. Not so much this time.

Many things are unlikely to go back to exactly the way they were but it’s my guess that sooner rather than later sales will return to pretty much normal. What you do in these abnormal times will determine your level of success and how fast you’re personally back to normal when the “ab” in abnormal is gone.

Stay in the game and keep selling. Take the long view and realize your activities today will shape the curve of your personal comeback later. That is most certainly not the curve you want to flatten!

Are You a Mad Salesperson?

I like competitive salespeople. I want them to be upset when they lose a sale. I’m perfectly okay it they are a little angry about it. In fact, I’m fine if they are just plain mad. 

 

So long as they are mad at themselves and NOT their customer.

 

Professional salespeople know that when a sale is lost it is never the customer’s fault. The customer has zero responsibility to buy from a salesperson. No matter how much time and energy that salesperson might have invested in earning the sale. 

 

It is not the customer’s fault that the salesperson failed to influence them to the degree that they would feel comfortable making a purchase from the salesperson. 

 

It is NEVER the customer’s fault. Never!

 

Thinking that it is simply provides cover for unprepared, unprofessional, and undeserving salespeople. 

 

Even if something happened that is completely out of the salesperson’s control professional salespeople accept responsibility. 

 

Professional salespeople have chosen to accept the challenges of selling and EVERYTHING that comes with it. There may be some responsibility to spread around for a lost sale but that responsibility must never extend to the customer. 

 

There is no doubt that some customers are more challenging than others. Some customers are misinformed and some might have unreasonable expectations. But real selling is about overcoming those challenges and helping a customer to see how your product or service will help them achieve their goals. 

 

So, are you a mad salesperson? I hope so. I also hope the person you’re mad at is the one who stares back at you from the mirror every morning. If that is who you’re mad at then there is a chance that you know your success is up to you. It’s a sign you know that to have better results you’ll have to be better yourself. You’ll have to work harder. You’ll have to earn your success. 

 

If you’re mad at anyone else then your success will surely be limited. Do not limit your success by blaming anything on anyone else. 


Now, go earn your success!