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. 

Who Are You Talking About?

Few things in life are more valuable than influence. Authentic Leaders know that the essence of leadership is not authority, it is influence. If you have to ability to influence another person you have the ability to lead. If you have the ability and willingness to be a positive influence on other people then you have the ability to be an Authentic Leader. 

Professional Selling is all about influence. When a customer calls wanting to buy your product that is not selling, that is taking an order. When you influence a prospect’s opinion about your product or service and change it from neutral or negative to a positive opinion, that is selling. 

The most successful people intentionally work to increase their level of influence in all settings. Whether it’s work, a social setting, or a team setting influence is the currency of success. Business success and personal success both come from possessing influence. 

One of the fastest is to increase your level of influence is to be genuinely curious about other people. Think about this…when you meet new people who are you talking about? Are you talking about the other person or are you talking about yourself? 

Work at developing the skill of making the conversation about others, not about you. You are more attractive to other people when they feel valued in your presence. When they feel valued by you then your level of influence goes up. 

Now here’s something that I need to repeat. Be GENUINELY curious about other people. This is not about manipulating people or fooling them into thinking you care about them. This is about increasing YOUR level of influence by truly caring about THEM. 

Enter into these relationships with the intention of learning from others. Ask questions and listen intently to the answers. Linger on the words of the speaker until you’re certain you understand what was said. 

People who listen intently learn more and that knowledge increases their level of influence. 

Always be relatable. No matter what you’ve accomplished in life never lose your humility. Humility is a critical characteristic of Authentic Leadership and makes you more relatable to the people you lead. Humility makes you more authentic to people and actually increases your level of influence with them. 

Never forget the power of influence. Once you’ve earned a high level of influence never forget the responsibility to ensure the influence you have on others is positive. If your influence helps other people overcome their challenges and succeed then you’ll truly have the kind of influence that makes a difference in the world. 

They Said Yes, Now What?

The most successful salespeople know that when their customer says yes the relationship is just beginning. Less successful salespeople too often think that when the customer says yes the relationship is now closed.

That’s one of the reasons when I do Sales Training I try to avoid the term “closing the sale.” I use “earn the buying commitment” instead. I want the salespeople to understand that nothing is closed. Nothing is over. The customer has made a commitment to the salesperson and their product and they expect a commitment in return. 

“Closed,” at least when it comes to relationships has a terrible connotation to it. Nobody, not ever, has wanted to be “closed.” I mean really, is there a worse place to be than in the “closing room” at a car dealership?

When the customer says yes they expect every promise and every commitment that the salesperson made to be honored.  They expect them to be honored in a timely fashion with no hassles. They expect the price to be as quoted. They expect the delivery to happen on the date promised. They expect all paperwork and billing to be completed correctly. They expect their calls to be returned and all questions answered. They expect their calls returned quickly. 

They expect whatever it is they have purchased to work as promised and be free of defects. 

In short, they expect exactly what you would expect. The thing that amazes me is how many people will sell something only to “provide” a lower level of service then they would be willing to accept if they were the customer. 

As a professional salesperson, and as a human being, you will never go wrong fully honoring your commitments. When you take care of your customers your customers will take care of you. 

Do Relationships Still Matter?

There is a growing school of thought, an alarming school of thought if you ask me, that Business Relationships don’t matter as much as they used to. Some would say they don’t matter at all.

There is research that shows that could be true. Generation Z, the generation now entering the workforce is said to prefer “digital contact” over face-to-face contact, especially in business dealings.

Some people say that’s true also of Millennials but the research would disagree. Kind of. It’s only the trailing edge of millennials who prefer less face-to-face business dealings. Leading edge millennials felt that way but as they get older they look, act, speak and do much as the boomer generation who came before them.

There is no reason to think the younger millennials and Gen Z won’t age in the same way.

People and organizations who believe they can eliminate or minimize the importance of business relationships do so at their own risk. People buy and do business with other people they like and can trust. TRUST ONLY COMES FROM RELATIONSHIPS!

Without trust a customer is left to make their buying decisions on other factors, like ease of buying, reputation of the product and of course price. Without trust there will be no customer loyalty nor should there be.

It’s a bit of a scary day when I’m called “old school” because I believe relationships matter. At the foundation of that belief is another belief…one that says people matter. Every aspect of life revolves around our interactions with other people. If you can build solid personal relationships and business relationships you’ll simply have a better life and a better business.

If you don’t agree with that today then one day you will. I only hope for your sake you realize the importance of relationships before you let to much of what life is made of pass you by.

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.

Are You Helping Your Customers?

I have long believed…and taught, that the best way to succeed in sales is by helping your customers achieve their goals and objectives. My mind is pretty well made up on this point and I can’t imagine what anyone could say to change it.

But many have tried. Some of those who have tried tell me that sales is about separating a prospect from their money as quickly and efficiently as possible. That is most definitely NOT what professional selling is about.

Others have told me that sales is about making a lot of money. That is not true either even though making a lot of money is one of the two primary reasons many people go into sales. The fact is, making a lot of money is what happens when you help a lot of people achieve their goals and objectives.

Sales is ALL about helping customers. I suppose I should add a qualifier to that…PROFESSIONAL SALES is all about helping customers. Product peddlers pride themselves on being able to “unload” any product on anyone and they will use any trick to do it. They will do most anything for a buck. They give professional salespeople a bad name.

Professional salespeople have only one trick up their sleeve and it’s really no trick at all. It’s called asking effective questions. So effective that sometimes it helps a customer understand that there is a solution to a problem that they didn’t know existed.

If those professional salespeople discover that their product or service does not help a prospect they won’t attempt to turn that prospect into a customer by selling them something they won’t benefit from.

If you’re wondering how close you are to helping your customers ask yourself a question first. That question is this: what are the goals and objectives of my top ten prospects or current customers?

I start with the top ten because if you don’t know those then it’s most unlikely you will know others.

If you can’t answer that question it’s likely because you’ve never directly asked your prospects what their goals and objectives are. If that’s the case you have the ability to correct that situation immediately…just ask.

Your prospects and customers may not have an immediate answer for you. It’s a question that may catch them off guard. That’s because so few salespeople straight up ask. You can actually change the perception of a prospect by asking, and that change will most definitely be in the right direction.

So, are you helping your customers? You’ll find it very difficult to help anyone achieve their goals if you don’t even know what they are. So find out. Just ask, it’s the only trick you’ll ever need.