Why People Lie

A friend of mine likes to say, "All prospects lie - it's in their nature." But is it? 

So why do sales people assume that their prospects are being untruthful?  We think they are fibbing about their project schedules, their budgets, their decision-making authority, and all manner of other things.

Here's a radical proposal about this phenomenon—and a few  keen observations.

1. People lie less because of their own motivations than they do out of what they perceive to be your motivations.  They distort the truth because they think it will please you—or keep from offending you. 

Which means that in every sales situation, I make it clear that the process is not about me.  My only interest is in how my actions will affect the prospect or client.  My clients understand that I expect them to do whatever is best for them—not for me.  Keep in mind that I said “Best for”, which is not always the same as, “Most convenient for.”

2. People are much more truthful than you give them credit for.  Most people squirm when they have to tell a lie.  Make it easy for your prospects to be truthful by not squirming yourself when you hear the truth.  You may not want to hear that an anvil is about to fall on your head—but being ignorant of that fact is not going to save you.

3. You get at the truth more quickly through specific questions—as opposed to open-ended ones.  “Tell me about the challenges you are facing,” is never going to get as solid a response as, “Why are you having trouble making your revenue goals?

Use those specific questions to move the conversation in the direction of the answer(s) you are seeking.  It’s not, “When are you going to make a decision by?”  It’s, “What events/mandates are driving the decision?” 

Ask questions like; “Has your Board ordered you to do this?”  “Is your old equipment is failing?”  “Do you need to take the tax loss or realize depreciation?”

Once you know the answer to your prospects' business-specific questions, you should ask, “After what date will that problem be unsolvable?”

From there, we can determine how necessary the project is, and if a hard-and-fast date really exists.  By understanding the prospect’s pain, you can help him keep better track of his goals—and yours as well.