What to do When Clients and Prospects Lie

BY Rachel Cagle
Featured image for “What to do When Clients and Prospects Lie”

Salespeople are often unfairly and harshly judged for being stereotypically dishonest. But no one talks about how often both clients and prospects lie to sales reps. Dishonesty kills sales no matter which side the lie is coming from.

What Prospects Lie About

When prospects lie to you, it’s always about important, sales stopping details. According to Claire McConnachie, writing for Salesforce, there are a few big lies that are common among prospects and clients. They are dishonest about their budgets, when they are available, and the offers they are getting from competitors (whether or not they’ve actually been talking to your competition). They could also be misdirecting you about which decision-​makers you need to be talking to. These lies are costing you both the time you waste as you attempt to overcome these obstacles and the money connected to a sale that may not happen if you can’t identify when you’re being lied to.

How to Know When You’re Being Lied to

Being able to quickly recognize when a client or prospect is lying to you is essential to navigating frustrating sales exchanges. Marc Wayshak, writing for Sales Insights Lab, names a few details you should be on the lookout for to identify a liar.

They’re Inconsistent

The discovery process includes well-​thought-​out questions, usually quite a few, to learn the important details about the prospect and their company’s needs. The further along in the discovery process you go, as long as you’re paying attention, it will be easy to spot whether your prospect begins to contradict themselves. When prospects lie to you, there are usually inconsistencies that develop in their stories to block a sale from happening. “For example,” says Wayshak, “your prospect may tell you two incompatible numbers. Or there may be details that simply don’t add up. If you notice these inconsistencies, note them in your notes and, if necessary, ask your prospects about the discrepancies.”

They Exaggerate

When you’re discussing something as important as fixing a problem or fulfilling a need, you want to make the details as clear as possible. If you don’t, there could be a crucial element that is lost in translation or you could just be causing general confusion. Wayshak says that some prospects lie by using hyperbolic and exaggerated language. Talking like this keeps the details of their side of the conversation vague. Politicians are good examples of people who use hyperbole to avoid answering questions directly, Wayshak points out as an example. When a prospect or client is refusing to be direct with you, it should be obvious that something isn’t right.

They Act Invested, but Won’t Move Forward

There are a variety of situations in life where we don’t want to do something, but also want to save face. A good example is the murder mystery episode of the TV series Schitt’s Creek. When one of the characters is asked if she’ll be going to a murder mystery party she previously acted excited about, she responds with, “I would be pleased to RSVP as pending. Just, uh, as soon as I double check and circle back. Oh, that; yes… It’s just that it’s the end of the week, so that’s always chockablock. And then there are the kids. Both of them….” It’s obvious to everyone except the host, who is holding out hope, that the character is not interested. An unwillingness to commit to the next step in the sales process is always something to be wary of and address.

What to do When You’re Being Lied to

Identifying when you’re being lied to is only the beginning of the battle. The next step is when you need to carefully address the situation. In an article for Sales Artillery, Aja Frost offers a few well-​worded responses to use when clients and prospects lie.

When They’re Inconsistent

It’s always good to take notes when you’re talking with a prospect or client, not only for when you’re crafting the next step in your sales plan, but for when you need proof to call a liar’s bluff. Frost recommends that you use the following kind of response when you’re addressing an inconsistency, “That surprises me, only because in a previous conversation I wrote down [the contradictory fact]. Let me correct my notes.” Wording your response like this lets the prospect or client know that you’re aware of the misinformation, but you’re not accusing them since you’re placing the blame on your note taking. Telling the prospect that you’re going to put their new misinformation on record gives them the opportunity to correct themselves so that there won’t be evidence of dishonesty.

When They Exaggerate

The best way to get to the bottom of what someone is hiding when they use hyperbole is to ask for clarification. You can either ask the prospect outright what they mean or, you can use the response Frost recommends. “All right. To clarify, [summarize what you believe the prospect means]. Did I get that right?” Frost says that, “by asking, 'Did I get that right?', you give the other person the chance to acknowledge their error or clear up the confusion without losing face.”

When They Won’t Move Forward

You can’t allow prospects lies to stall the sale for too long. When the prospect puts off committing to taking the next step, address the situation. Ask the prospect outright if you can dig a little deeper into their hesitancy and fears. The conversation might make them more comfortable and, therefore, willing to move forward.

Why Clients and Prospects Lie

Clients and prospects lie for a myriad of reasons, but don’t let it be because they feel you aren’t credible. According to SalesFuel’s CEO, C. Lee Smith, the Hierarchy of Sales Credibility has five levels. Where you stand directly influences the value of the accounts you land and whether or not you’re selling from a position of strength. You can learn how to raise your standing by reading his book SalesCred.