I was talking with a good friend yesterday about the fun he’s having with his new salespeople. (He just hired two new people last week.)
As we talked, the topic of prospecting for new leads came up. He told me a story that provides a real life example of how easy it is for a salesperson to cross the line between honesty and dishonesty.
The salesperson he told me about sells the kinds of products most small offices or retail stores would need. He finds new leads by cold calling on businesses. While I’m not a big fan of this type of prospecting, it does work for a lot of people.
But this salesperson puts a dishonest twist into his prospecting. He’ll walk into a store and engage the owner or manager like he’s interested in buying something. He’ll ask questions, show interest in the store or the products and even toss out a few well-placed compliments.
Then, when the conversation is warm enough he’ll go into his sales pitch.
I realize that, in the grand scheme of things, this is not a major infraction. Obviously people do things that are ethically much worse than this.
But does that make it right?
This salesperson has engaged his prospect by misleading them. He has misrepresented his intentions. He has chosen to deceive another person just to get them talking.
How can that be a good way to begin a potential business relationship?
Furthermore, why do some people think this is okay? Are people actually teaching this in sales training seminars? (If you know of any sales training that suggests tricks like this, PLEASE let me know.)
Jim Logan tells a related story about how a mortgage company uses a similar tactic with their direct mail solicitations. You can read it here.
It’s easy to dismiss these tactics as innocent. We might say they’re no worse than the “little white lies” we sometimes tell.
And, we might argue that tricks like these are necessary and appropriate because prospects are so hard to talk to. They “force” salespeople to resort to these misleading tactics.
But I disagree.
If you’re going to begin a relationship with dishonesty then where does it stop? Where do you draw the line and start being honest with your new customer?
As a potential customer, I’ll see right away that you misled me into to talking with you. Therefore I will immediately distrust you. You’ll find it much, much harder to build trust or credibility with me.
And I don’t think tricks like these are needed to get prospects to talk. That’s the lazy way to sell.
If you have something the prospect needs and if you approach them in a professional and appropriate way, eventually you’ll connect with them. If not, you try again later. If you try several times and get nowhere, maybe you hand them off to another salesperson to try. Or maybe you remove them from your list for now. (You can’t sell everyone.)
Maybe the bottom line is to remember the golden rule. Do you enjoy being lied to? Do you trust people who purposely mislead you to accomplish their goal?
What do you think? Am I being too hard on this salesperson? Is a little trickery okay as long as no one gets hurt? Or is this a bad way to prospect for new customers?