Wouldn’t it be great if when a person was lying, his pants really did spontaneously combust?  Or better yet, what if when someone was telling a lie his nose grew like Pinocchio’s?  That sure would make telling fact from fiction much easier.  While such obvious tells do not exist, it does not change the fact that liars are alive and well.

If you are in sales and arguably we are all in sales (a sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation), the fact that liars exist in the world is neither good nor bad.  Rather, it simply is worth noting.  To minimize frustration and focus instead on being successful, you are better off accepting upfront that your prospects will lie.  They will look you right in the eye while they lie through their teeth.  Further, they will smile and nod, give you a “yes, of course” all the while feigning enthusiasm.  This is not a judgment about prospects, but an observation.

In the event that you question the validity of this remark, take a moment to remember your last interaction with a vendor.  For the sake of illustration, let us imagine it went something like:

Vendor: “Hello, Mrs. Smith, this is State Farm.  We are contacting you because we would like for you to schedule an appointment to come in to review and evaluate your current coverage.”

Mrs. Smith (who is totally disinterested and has no intention of ever stepping foot into State Farm): “That’s great.  Thanks so much for contacting me.  I would love to come in, but my schedule is booked solid right now.  Can you put it on your calendar to contact me in a month or so?”

Vendor: “Absolutely.  I will circle back with you in June.”

There are three common reasons why people like Mrs. Smith bypass the path to truth and instead go the way of the little white lie.

Nicer.  People want to be nice and it feels nicer to lie than to give someone a big fat “not interested.”  Sometimes, the truth just feels too mean.  Prospects candy coat with the best of intentions, but they are misguided at best.  Lying may seem kinder on the giving end, but it does not seem that way on the receiving end.  To steal a line from Moneyball, “Would you rather get a bullet to the head or five to the chest and bleed to death?”

Safer.  Not everyone is courageous.  Telling the truth takes guts.  It is not easy for a prospect to tell you that your life’s work seems like a complete waste of time and money.  It is much more comfortable to hide behind a lie.  Many people do not like confrontation and to avoid it they use tactics such as acquiescing and being dishonest.  We tend to respond more favorably to “That’s a great idea, let me get back to you” than “I don’t get it.  You do what?”

Faster.  Time is limited and lying can be quicker than the truth.  When a prospect tells us that they are not interested in our product (consulting, legal services, or dental equipment) we respond with all of the reasons why they should be interested.  When they share their objections to what we have to offer, we neither accept those objections nor allow them to move on.  Rather, we take up more of their time trying to convince them why they are mistaken.  Think about the last time your alma mater called you about a gift to the annual fund.  Saying, “Sure, send me a pledge form” got you off the line pretty quick.

While there are ways to get your prospects to level with you, for now start by embracing the Golden Rule.  Try doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. The next time you are tempted to take the path of least resistance, try a short and sweet “No” instead.  Maybe somewhere down the line someone will return the favor by telling you upfront that what you offer is not the right fit for them.  Remember what Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”