Home > Personal Selling > When Is It Okay To Lie To Make A Sale?

When Is It Okay To Lie To Make A Sale?

A very unusual subject, but a very important one. Here's the rub. Everyone in sales has lied to a potential customer at least once. Now, before you get indignant and send me millions of e-mails, hear me out. Unfortunately for the salesperson, most of the salespersons are just as victimized as the consumer. That's the truth whether you like it or not.

I was a victim for 3 years before I learned I was not an advertising agent but my presentation was a 100% scripted lie sold to me and thousands of young persons around the country every year for literally 50 years! Unwittingly, thousands of these young persons, including myself, were out selling, thinking we were advertising agents. Well unfortunately, that happens to countless of sales persons on a daily basis from unscrupilous owners of companies. In forty years of sales I have seen it all, from car sales, to home improvement sales persons to every, other kind of sale. They are way to numerous to list. The problem is that a large number of salespersons, because of the money, rationalize that their lies are okay since the company is doing it, not them. Somewhere you have to draw a line.

To answer the question, it is never okay to lie to make a sale. Now here is the tricky part. Is splitting hairs not lying? In other words, not saying the whole truth, just leaving certain parts out that would surely cost you the sale. Or just saying what the customer wants to hear while not directly answering their question by distracting them with other verbiage or distracting them by showing them something else to take their mind off their original question?

All of these techniques are an everyday part of the sales industry. Here's the ironic part of this post, regardless of the indignation showed by the consumer do they expect the salesperson to lie to them? Or at least are they expecting the salesperson to shave the truth a little? One thing you should notice is that throughout this entire article I never once used the term sales professional.

"The Specialist" - by The Specialist
Is splitting hairs not lying? In other words, not saying the whole truth, just leaving certain parts out that would surely cost you the sale.
I heard a story about a guy who was seen at an emergency room for an emergency medical condition and WAS NOT MADE AWARE that the facility wasn't a participating provider with his insurance carrier.

He found out about the insurance the hard way when he got the bill for his emergency room visit and found out he was responsible for 100% of the billed charges. (Normally insurance carriers only allow so much that is billed and the hospitals write off the difference. Example; You have a $10,000 bill, the insurance allows and pays $5000 and the hosiptal writes off the $5000 difference.)

He asked why he hadn't been told about the insurance issue when he first presented his insurance information so that he could decide if he would rather be seen at an "in-network" facility and the answer was, believe it or not, the hospital would get in trouble if he decided to leave because they weren't a participating provider and he died from his injuries before he could get to the next facility.

Apparently this is a "No Ask-No Tell" policy. Is that lying to make a sale? zp; - by AZBroker
I think at best it is a case of GROSS misrepresentation! Not knowing the legal liabilities and the entire story I would not readily say it was lying to make a sale. Having said that I would not hesitate to say it was lying to protect the facilities liability. Hopefully, they would make it right with the patient.

"The Specialist" - by The Specialist
I heard a story about a guy who was seen at an emergency room for an emergency medical condition and WAS NOT MADE AWARE that the facility wasn't a participating provider with his insurance carrier.

He found out about the insurance the hard way when he got the bill for his emergency room visit and found out he was responsible for 100% of the billed charges. (Normally insurance carriers only allow so much that is billed and the hospitals write off the difference. Example; You have a $10,000 bill, the insurance allows and pays $5000 and the hosiptal writes off the $5000 difference.)

He asked why he hadn't been told about the insurance issue when he first presented his insurance information so that he could decide if he would rather be seen at an "in-network" facility and the answer was, believe it or not, the hospital would get in trouble if he decided to leave because they weren't a participating provider and he died from his injuries before he could get to the next facility.

Apparently this is a "No Ask-No Tell" policy. Is that lying to make a sale? zp;
An excellent case of "assuming the sale" which, in this form, I'm opposed to. - by Wonderboy
I think if you find yourself in a job where you think you have to lie to get a sale, I suggest you find another job. No job is worth your integrity.

Good companies with good products don't require lies to sell them, and if one is caught lying or misrepresenting, they are typically dismissed.

I have been fortunate to work with a worthy organization, but have been forced to leave other places due to that same type of moral conflict. Ultimately that is your call. - by Telephone Guru
I think if you find yourself in a job where you think you have to lie to get a sale, I suggest you find another job. No job is worth your integrity.

Good companies with good products don't require lies to sell them, and if one is caught lying or misrepresenting, they are typically dismissed.

I have been fortunate to work with a worthy organization, but have been forced to leave other places due to that same type of moral conflict. Ultimately that is your call.
Excellent advice to the community, T.G. Thanks. - by Skip Anderson
if you believe in the products or items that you are selling, then there's no need to lie about them...;bg - by nei_tenz
"Is splitting hairs not lying? In other words, not saying the whole truth, just leaving certain parts out that would surely cost you the sale. Or just saying what the customer wants to hear while not directly answering their question by distracting them with other verbiage or distracting them by showing them something else to take their mind off their original question?" - TS Question

Splitting hairs and selling by omitting important facts and information, etc. is lying. When should you lie: whenever you want to lie if you believe it's okay to lie, you live by lies, you would have your family lied to without a problem and teach them the virtues of lying too.

When is it not okay to lie: when you believe it's not okay to lie, you live by not lying, and when you believe you want your family to live by not lying.

"Very few peoole will ever earn a five or six figure income in a business like this [network marketing] and that is a fact. Even with a good company it's a fact. We've watched lines of business vanish from sight and have had to keep building and learning how to be smarter at it. We've seen people work for years with little to show for it. It's all up to you and how you go about it and what is your motivation, Rob"

That's what I told a prospect a couple of months ago, he decided he wanted to give a business a try anyway [as he's sold himself as a painter and wall paper hanger for twenty years and he knows that kind of challenge], and I said the same thing to him again and again after we got in his paper work. There's an example of how I work.

On the other hand, I read advertisments for sales positions in the local paper making it sound like that potential $100,000 is there for grabs. I've seen the same hype in ads for local community colleges making it sound like a degree in this or that will put you in the driver's seat of a great paying job.

As Big Daddy Burl Ives said in the movie "Cat On The Hot Tin Roof" "MENDACITY! I live in a house of mendacity!"

MitchM - by MitchM
it all depends on the consequences of what you say or how you say it.

for example, a customer wants to buy a new model vehicle because he is instantly attracted to the styling and the features. however, in the back of your mind you already anticipate the customer inquiring about the reliability of the vehicle. do you, in all HONESTY, disclose all the known repair bulletins and recalls, or do you focus on the positive selling points of you product as indicated by the brand newsletters and product information guides? TMI

i wouldn't exactly call it "lying", but i feel it may be necessary to withhold some truths to close deals. a ginzu knife salesman doesn't tell a potential buyer of his product that the razor-sharp serated edge can saw a hammer head off but will go dull in the process! - by sellscarsinguam
Moderators Note: Post(s) inconsistent with the spirit of the community removed by moderator. - by Admin-Asst
I take umbrage with broad statements like, "everyone in sales has lied". It simply isn't accurate.

It is never appropriate to lie whether you're selling, roofing, nursing, driving a cab, etc.

Integrity is the basis for truly meaningful two-way communications with your business network. After all, if the other party cannot trust what you say, how can you conduct business with them?

If you're lying to your prospects, are you lying at work about your prospects?

Small lies, white lies, omission, etc. are all part of the same under-pinning for your personal integrity. After a day of the above, if you are able to clear-off that shaving mirror in the morning and feel good about yourself, you're in for a surprise. You simply cannot sustain long term business relationships based upon deceit.

Treat them all in the manner which you want to be treated!

Good luck & Good selling!
Pat - by OUTSource Sales
Here, here. Pat shows us what class is all about, again!

As if we need to be fraudulent or liars just to make obscene income. We have no trouble in our profession making the big bucks without ever acting unprofessionally. - by Gold Calling
Exactly,

My business is based on trust from day one.
Every day I lend mechanics money based on a word and a hand shake. I trust they will pay me and they trust that the tool I sold them will work as advertised and that I will warranty the tool if it breaks.
If I ever once started lying to them I would be out of business in a week. (I've seen it happen.)

That many of them lie to me is a given.

Pat - by toolguy_35
sellscarsinguam

I would expect that any recall item or repair bulletin had been already done to the vehicle before it was plated when sold. Therefore, in my mind, the fact that your company is all over them and therefore sells a safe car is a benefit. It both shows the commitment your organization has to great service and that the manufacturer is all over anything that can be improved.

Why feel you have to omit when you can turn it into a benefit? - by Gold Calling
i stand corrected...i believe it sounded, now having read my post several months later, as if i were an advocate for lying to sell. Not true. - by sellscarsinguam
Small lies, white lies, omission, etc. are all part of the same under-pinning for your personal integrity.
I agree as a basic principle that one should never lie to make a sale. However when it comes to lying in general, a whole bag of worms is opened up. For example, your wife says to you: "does this dress make me look fat dear ?" Do you act with integrity and say "YES !" ? Anyone with an once of emotional intelligence does not act so bluntly and with such unkindness.

Lies don't come in colors ... a white lie is a lie.

Lies of omission are perhaps the most common.

Perhaps what is more important than what is a lie, is to always act with integrity.

An interesting question I've often put to people is "Do salespeople have more integrity than doctors ?" ... Most people say definitely 'NO' ... I point out that profession has nothing to do with character. - by TonyB
If telling the truth means losing the sale, I say lose the sale and move on.

We live with abundance all around us. And if we market ourselves correctly, there is an abundant number of qualified prospects we can sell to.

I've lost sales for telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And I slept well that night with a clean conscience and went to work to find another prospect from the supply funnel I created.

Don't get me wrong. I firmly believe that no self respecting professional sales person ever wants to lose a sale. If you're like me you get goosebumps just thinking about the commission we'll earn.

But to lie, either overtly or through omission is simply not selling with the clients' best interests in mind. We're not carpetbaggers running the rails, never looking back or caring about the buyers left behind. We're relationship builders, building rapport and developing a customer base over a period of time. That takes truth and truth takes guts.

What's worse, should you decide to tell a "white lie" or a little fib, and if a client should ever learn of your deceit, the repercussions can effect your reputation and your ability to earn a living for a long, long time.

Stop worrying about what others do, and do what's right! - by SpeakerTeacher
There has only been one situation where I felt that lying was the way to go, and that was in retail sales, women's clothing.
I always taught my associates to be VERY truthful, except in this one instance. It was when a woman had gained weight and gone up one or two sizes, but was in denial about it and WOULDN'T try on her proper size.
Everything she tried on was short, bulgy and tight and my associates couldn't get her to go up a size. I stepped in and lied.
I said, "Oh, we have changed our manufacturers a few times over the last few years, and have been teaching our customers to dismiss the size tag altogether. IE, the pants you're trying on now (to the sales associate) "please bring her a size up, these are the ones that fit small" (to the customer) "Just give them a try. You'll notice that the waist will feel better and the leg will be longer."
Clothing sales people can't tell someone to go on a diet, but they need for their customers to look good when they leave the store.
I hated doing it, but some women will keep wearing those too-small sizes no matter what an associate says, then the people that see HER will think the professionals don't know what they're doing. I'd rather she look and feel good, even if it means that she keeps her head in the sand a bit longer. - by becomingkate
"Is splitting hairs not lying? In other words, not saying the whole truth, just leaving certain parts out that would surely cost you the sale. Or just saying what the customer wants to hear while not directly answering their question by distracting them with other verbiage or distracting them by showing them something else to take their mind off their original question?" - TS Question

Splitting hairs and selling by omitting important facts and information, etc. is lying. When should you lie: whenever you want to lie if you believe it's okay to lie, you live by lies, you would have your family lied to without a problem and teach them the virtues of lying too.

When is it not okay to lie: when you believe it's not okay to lie, you live by not lying, and when you believe you want your family to live by not lying.

"Very few peoole will ever earn a five or six figure income in a business like this [network marketing] and that is a fact. Even with a good company it's a fact. We've watched lines of business vanish from sight and have had to keep building and learning how to be smarter at it. We've seen people work for years with little to show for it. It's all up to you and how you go about it and what is your motivation, Rob"

MitchM
I want to kick this up a notch at the risk at getting some people mad at me.

First, I want to state that I get lied to by salespeople regularly, particularly in the form of mistating or reframing the facts. Now inasmuch as there seems to be a real consensus on the evils of lying in sales on this thread bordering on righteous indignation, we might conclude that ours is a very special group indeed, and it's a miracle we all came together here. Or--we might conclude that only the truth tellers are coming forward on this particular thread.

Take your pick--it doesn't matter. The fact is that when we condense the subject of Integrity into "never telling a lie", we get off unscathed.

I chose a path of Right Thinking years ago to fulfill my needs to sleep better at night. I practice it flawed by my human limitaions. I ended up liking myself more. I have told lies in my life, and in younger years I lied to myself. Sorry, People--I don't think I am alone here on that. I think the person that says he never lies is fibbing.

That said, let's look at excerpts from Mitch's post above. After reading the intial three paragraphs, study the part in blue bold representing his words to a prospect.

I do not detect evidence of one lie in his words. BUT--here's the rub. There is a hidden implication there that is contained often in such conversations. The implication is that the speaker, namely Mitch, makes "a five or six figure income". Mitch doesn't say it, but that implication is there.

Now, it's none of my business how much Mitch makes, and frankly I have enough respect for his mind and skills to believe he makes a decent buck. BUT--take the same EXACT words and have them come out of the mouths of the vast majority of network marketers who don't make diddly and that INFERENCE takes on a whole new color. Same words. Same inference. But something slips by that is every bit as cagey as a lie.

Integrity is a great subject. Integrity is a weapon. Let's not put such a neat little wrapper on it unless we are willing to look at a much bigger picture. - by Ace Coldiron
Weekly Updates!
Questions and Answers about Selling
Subscribe to our mailing list to get threads and posts sent to your email address weekly - Free of Charge.