Your mom said it. You heard it in school. You’ve probably heard it all your life. You may think it has nothing to do with sales, but it does because in sales:

Honesty is Always the Best Policy

Last evening I was speaking with a friend of mine. She’s the assistant dean at the business school of a very large university in the Northeast. She told me this real life story.

My friend, let’s call her Jane Jones, had recently attended a seminar and exhibition. There she met an exhibitor with a very interesting service that she thought would be a good fit for the business school. Jane told the exhibitor that she was not the person to talk to, but that she would be happy to facilitate an introduction to the correct person—the decision-maker. Ta-duh! Jane then handed over a business card.

Yesterday, she received a call from a representative of that exhibiting company. Jane has a secretary who actually answered the call. The secretary asked the representative the usual, “What is this in reference to?” The representative answered, “I’m returning Jane’s call.” Hmmmm…

Here is the lesson part: Jane was actually happy to help this company make the right connection until their representative called her and lied. Jane was quite offended and instead of speaking with the representative, Jane asked her secretary to tell the caller that she was not available. She will probably not be available for a very long time—if ever. This sales representative may now have to now find the decision-maker all on his own.

So what might this sales representative have said instead? How about:

“Please tell Jane that (representative’s name) from (company) is calling.”


“Jane met (exhibitor’s name) at (name of seminar/exhibition).”


“I’m from (company name.) Jane said she’d be able to help us.”

Any of these responses would have been fine. Jane would have recognized the company name and either taken the call or asked her secretary to convey a message of the correct decision-maker’s name and contact information. Instead, this representative will have to find his own way through the organization’s maze.

There is no reason to ever lie to a prospect. There is no reason to make up stories, or phone calls or connections that do not exist. Ever. While these types of tactics may occasionally work, more often than not, they’ll backfire and you’ll lose out.

I am not suggesting that when faced with the gatekeeper question, “What is this in reference to?” that you should blurt out every detail of everything that you wish to discuss with your prospect. Your posture should be that of a peer of the prospect you are calling. In that posture, give the gatekeeper the minimum amount of information that she would need to put your call through. Frequently, simply your name and company name will suffice.

In the suggested responses above, the responses are short and to-the-point giving a minimal amount of information, just enough that the gatekeeper will feel comfortable passing you along.

And remember: Just like mom always said, “Honesty is the best policy.”

© 2009, Wendy Weiss

Author's Bio: 

Wendy Weiss, “The Queen of Cold Calling,” is a sales trainer, author and sales coach. Contact her at Get Wendy’s free Special Report, Getting in the Door: How to Write an Effective Cold Calling Script, at