I asked my wife Peggy what I should write about this week.  Without blinking an eye she said “Honesty; salespeople only tell you what you want to hear. They’ll promise you everything and usually deliver far less than they promised, or nothing.”

I ‘m getting the feeling my wife doesn’t like salespeople.  However, I know she does.  She has several friends at the stores where she shops and I also know she likes me.  Somewhere in her life’s experience she has had some negative experiences with salespeople and the experiences have been significant enough that she would suggest I write about honesty in selling.

A few years ago, one of my client companies developed and marketed a new and innovative product.  They have done an excellent job introducing this product to the industry and have captured a large part of their competition’s market share.  One of their competitors sent a letter to those customers purchasing this new and innovative product telling them that it presented a health risk and would damage the equipment used to apply the product.  Every time this competitor heard that a company using this product was having a problem with their equipment, they would immediately put the blame on the new and innovative product sold by my client.  Over a period of time, my client lost sales due to the negative information spread throughout the industry.

The competition was spreading lies.  In every instance, it was demonstrated and proven that the problems with equipment had nothing to do with my client’s product, and further, that the product did not provide any more of a health risk than the competitor’s own product.  The dishonesty of the competitor ultimately came back to hurt them and not my customer.  In fact, it must have been embarrassing for the competition to eventually introduce a similar product and then suggest it did not cause any of the problems they had openly broadcast about my client’s product.  The dishonest words of the competitor damaged their own reputation within the industry.

Here are five ideas that will help you be honest in your dealings with customers.  Remember, people buy from people they believe, like and trust.  Your sales career hangs in the balance between honesty and dishonesty.

  1. Treat your customer’s situation as though it were your own.  What would you do and how would you act if you were your own customer?  Tell them the reality of the situation and not what you think they want to hear.  
  2. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit you don’t know instead of fabricating an answer that may not be true.  If you don’t know, tell them you will find the answer and get back to them.  There is no shame in not knowing, but it is dishonest to pretend you know the answer when you don’t.
  3. It is just as dishonest to avoid telling the truth, as it is to openly say something that is not true.  If you compromise honesty, it will only hurt you.  You risk compromising trust with your customer.  It is much more difficult to regain credibility than to maintain it.
  4. Never speak negatively about your competition.  The competition may deserve it, but don’t be the one to talk about them.  Remember the famous line spoken in Walt Disney’s classic movie, Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
  5. Discover what your prospect or customer needs.  Once you know their needs you can focus on solving their problems.  If your product is not the best solution, tell them.  Help them arrive at a solution whether it involves your product or your competition’s.  You will be rewarded with future business by helping them meet their needs and for your honesty in recommending the best overall solution.

Be honest in all of your dealings with customers and prospects.  Build relationships on a solid foundation of integrity and honesty.  The relationship will allow you to enjoy the most coveted of all sales postures, repeat sales.  Your very best next sale will come from an existing customer.  However, if you are not honest in your dealings with them, you can kiss that recurring sale good-bye.  How do you want to be known within your industry?  Never compromise your integrity; it is your most valuable asset.