The Truth at Any Price, Even the Price of Your Deal

guillotineMy friend Howard Bloom is one of the brightest minds I know, and the world’s greatest science researcher and writer. If you are unfamiliar with his work, you should start with The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and work your way to The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Revision of Capitalism.

Howard lives by a scientific principle: The truth at any price, even the price of your life. One of the reasons I love Howard is that he walks his talk here, and he is willing to live with the consequences of doing so.

In sales, your honesty, your integrity, and your credibility allow you to win deals; your dream client has to trust that you are all of these things in order to buy from you. They are table stakes.

Where the rubber meets the road is whether or not we are willing to live by the standard we profess when it comes with consequences. The question for those of in sales has an equally ominous finality that must be more than hyperbole:

Are you willing to give your client the truth at any price, including the price of your deal?

What I Have Lost

I have personally lost deals because I would not allow my dream client to keep their vision. I couldn’t tell them that they could have what they wanted because to do so would be to lie to them. I lost to competitors who were willing to lie and to tell the client that they could deliver the client’s vision in order to win their business.

Some of my competitors eventually lost the business because they could not achieve the outcome that they promised, and I eventually won some of those clients later. But some of them didn’t lose the client that they gained, even when the promises they made were never kept (and I would argue that the promises were never intended to be kept).

These clients accepted an inferior offering because they didn’t want to undergo the change that would enable them to achieve the outcome that they wanted. They preferred to believe that they could have the status quo and have the improvement they needed.

I lost some of these dream clients. And I have sat by watched them bounce through a long parade of vendors who would tell them what they wanted to hear, even when they should have recognized that it wasn’t true.

What I Have Gained

But there is another side to telling the truth, one that doesn’t end with you losing the deal. In more cases than cases I have lost, my honesty as to what was required to achieve the outcome my dream client needed enabled me to win the deal—even when what I said conflicted with what my dream client wanted to believe.

I have won dream clients because I was willing to tell the truth even when many of my competitors were not. On more than one occasion, I have found myself in a boardroom of executives who have told me that I was the only one who told them that they couldn’t have what they wanted and what it would take to give them what they wanted (talk about differentiation).

Fortunately, I was able to support my beliefs with logical, concrete and irrefutable facts. Even more fortunately, I was presenting to a group of grown ups that knew that achieving better results would require a serious change effort. But you don’t always know that when you step into the boardroom.

If you would be honest, if you would have the integrity and the credibility that is required of great salespeople, you have to step into the boardroom knowing that you are going to tell the truth at any price, including the price of your deal.

Conclusion

Being honest with your dream client is not always without a price. Sometimes it can cost you your deal, and sometimes when you most desperately need the deal. If you would be great, then you must be honest at any price, even the price of your deal.

Questions

  1. If honesty and integrity and credibility are important, how are these ideas tested?

  2. What is your personal standard when it comes to telling the truth?

  3. What price are you willing to pay for your honesty? Are you willing to lose the deal?

  4. How do you live with the fact that your competitors may win your deal by lying to your dream client and promising something they can’t deliver?

  5. Are you willing to tell the truth at any price, including the price of your deal?


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Comments

comments

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  • http://www.crosspointppm.com Bob Light

    A very thought-provoking post Anthony, especially when combined with your Not Selling on Price series. Being a relative newbie in Sales, after a long career in finance, you postings provide excellent guidelines for selling the right way.

    In practice though, most know of instances where the pressure on the sales team to “get their numbers” created circumstances where deals were pursued and booked that were not good for either the customer nor the company. This post also should apply, or even more so, to the sales manager or company management who accept this behavior, or perhaps, I just supplied you with a new post idea… ;>)

    Selling is hard work, but achieving success honestly is a huge reward. I still have much to learn, but thanks for re-enforcing part of the foundation!

  • Roy Schoettle

    Hi Anthony, I like your post a lot!

    I have to agree with Bob. A lot of sales people are in a tough spot where the pressure pushes them often over the lines of honesty. When the paycheck or the job is on the line, honesty becomes for a lot of people a luxury item.
    I agree, that only honesty will deliver the long term success and create the atmosphere of trust between you and your clients that builds a long lasting relationship and that we should never cross that line.
    Nevertheless, we have to examine the reasons for lack of honesty and understand that these salespeople are all humans often driven by their fears and their pain.
    So, your post is indeed best directed to the sales/company management. They have to make sure that the company values honesty and provide the right tools and incentives to their sales force so that they do not rely on lies.
    Take care
    Roy