As much as we hate to admit it, at one time or another, we’ve all been lied to. Sometimes the lie is exposed quickly and sometimes it takes awhile to surface. In sales, lying from a customer occurs more often than we are aware of.

Did you realize that nearly every sales call starts off with the customer not disclosing the entire truth? Salespeople rarely catch it right away. Unfortunately, they often believe the lie and then complicate the situation by building the rest of the sales call around it. When this happens, the salesperson is actually committing several fatal mistakes. To start, they are demonstrating incredibly pathetic listening skills to the customer. Second, the “close ratio” winds up being lower than it should be. Finally, the customer winds up being cheated by not doing business with the salesperson and the products or services they’re offering.

Let me explain. It is usually not the customer’s intention to lie to the salesperson. At the start of a typical sales conversation, many customers don’t know how to express themselves. Their lack of confidence in who they are speaking to causes them to withhold the whole truth. After the normal pleasantries have been exchanged, the first question posed by the salesperson often causes the customer to be somewhat uncomfortable. In an effort to make the situation as comfortable as possible, they wind up reverting to familiar comments that don’t really communicate what they want to say. You know the drill. The salesperson asks the customer what they are looking for and then becomes excited about what has been shared with them. This is the point when the salesperson fails to realize they were not given the whole truth. The quick response by the customer and the innocent way in which it was spoken makes it seem accurate and complete. In fact, the customer may not even realize they lied! Because our nature is to give someone the benefit of the doubt, it makes their lie both harder to notice and, more importantly, harder to know how to respond to it.

How can you prevent the inevitable lie from ruining your sales call? First, accept the fact that you will be lied to. Second, never believe the first thing any customer tells you as the whole truth. In fact, you should never believe anything they tell you until you’ve heard the same thing twice. Every comment they make needs to be challenged with a question. However, be careful not to drill the customer as if in a police interrogation. Rather, you should probe deeper by asking for more information. This elevates the importance of what they are sharing, thus helping the customer become more confident in you. In addition, it gets the customer to elaborate on what they just said. This is where it’s critical to listen carefully because the elaboration will contain the real information you’re looking for.

For further explanation, consider the interaction that typically takes place when someone buys a car. At the start of the interaction, the salesperson may ask the shopper what he’s looking for. He answers, “I’m looking for a 4-door that will fit my family.” Although this response sounds normal and truthful, in reality, it is a lie because he left out the fact that he needs a car that also has enough storage space for the trip he makes every few weeks to his home in the mountains. Because he failed to disclose the latter information, the salesperson winds up showing him a 4-door sedan that he, the salesperson, might like. At this point, the customer becomes discouraged with the sales skills of the person helping him and either walks out or becomes disengaged. In this example, the customer’s initial comment about his needs led the salesperson down the wrong path. What the salesperson should have done is disregard the initial comment unless it was repeated. He should have immediately asked a follow-up question regarding the customer’s first response. By continuing to probe, the salesperson would be able to draw out of the customer precisely what it is he’s looking for. In addition, the shopper will begin to repeat his needs and upon hearing something a second time, the salesperson would know he can take the information to the bank.

Although the example used above was very simple, the same thing happens in the most complex of buying situations, whether business-to-business or business-to-consumer. We’re all human and we all have an innate sense of not wanting to share our needs with people we don’t have confidence in. Because of the number of poor salespeople every customer has had to deal with over the years, the level of confidence is rarely high when a customer meets a salesperson for the first time. Unfortunately, human nature can cause this lying to even occur with those who we have done business with before. Customers will rarely walk into a buying situation with their thoughts scripted and their actions choreographed. Because of this, withholding information is just as likely to occur between two people who have an established relationship as it is with two people who just met. Finally, keep in mind that you will even have to deal with it with professional buyers. Be ready for it.

When you follow this method of asking follow-up questions, you actually do several things. First, you allow the customer to express what they are looking for in their own words. Second, you let the customer feel they’re in control of the process. Third, and best of all, because the customer feels powerful, they will become less defensive and more willing to share with you their true needs. This, in turn, allows you to draw out the best solution for the customer and when you do, you’re in a much better position to maximize your profit because you’re allowing the customer to maximize their desires.

In a sales call, challenge everything that is said with a follow-up question. Don’t accept anything as fact until you’ve heard the customer say it at least twice. Avoid sabotaging the success of the sales call by being prepared to accurately identify the needs of the customer through questions. Catch them in the act of lying and then use it to your advantage!

Author's Bio: 

Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter”, is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability. For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit