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Getting Caught In A Lie — Why Do Sales People Do This?

by David Brock on March 6th, 2009
I’m sitting in my office doing some work and the phone rings. In answering, some salesperson—doesn’t introduce herself asks for (let me call him) Mr. Smith.

I’m taken aback(You’ll see why later), I respond, “Mr. Smith isn’t available, my name is Dave Brock, I’m the president of the company, who am I speaking with and can I help you?”

She responds with her name and company—actually a fairly well known trade services organization, “No we are really trying to reach Mr. Smith. We spoke to him a couple of months ago about buying some of our services. He asked us to call him back, that he was interested in purchasing the services.”

I respond, “Well that seems a little unusual to me, are you sure that you spoke with Mr. Smith?”

She responds, voice going up a little, clearly frustrated, “Yes, I would really like to talk to Mr. Smith. As I said, one of my colleagues spoke to him a couple of months ago. He indicated he was interested in buying our services. We wanted to discuss the next steps with him.”

I’m very suspicious—I’ll tell you why in a moment, but I respond, “Are you sure you want Mr. Smith? Was it he that your colleague spoke to? Can I help you?”

Her response, clearly frustrated, “Yes, can you please give me his direct number?”

My response, “Well I am very confused, Mr. Smith died over 2 years ago. We keep his bio and name in our web site, clearly marked ‘In Memoriam.’ So if your colleague really did speak with Mr. Smith, he is using a very long distance number.” (“Mr. Smith” would have appreciated the irony.)

There was silence on the line.

I continued, “I’m curious, clearly no one in your company has spoken to Mr. Smith. Someone has apparently harvested names from our web site. but why do you have to lie as part of your prospecting?”

Another moment of silence from her—-then somehow we were disconnected, I wonder what happened 😉

If this were the only case, I’d not make a big deal about it, but I must get at least one call a week with some story–perhaps not as extreme like this. Usually, they ask for me, saying they are following up on the conversation we had a couple of months ago. I ask for when the conversation was, check my telephone log—unfortunately, I keep a log of all calls—then ask why they have to lie as part of the selling approach.

Just when I have hope that sales people are becoming more professional and are not using deception as part of their sales approach, the phone rings and someone is following up on their recent conversation with “Mr. Smith.”

Do any of you have similar stories to share?

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  1. leftpocket permalink

    It would be time to stop these poor tricks. Just reading a book like Schiffman’s one on cold calling to discover that we can be professional and polite and get a meeting.
    Thanks Dave your posts are always very interesting.

  2. Dave Brock's Blog permalink

    Massimo, thanks for the comment and the compliment. I really appreciate it! I’ll have to read Steve’s book.

  3. Dave- So true! I still get calls from credit card issuers asking for my deceased husband. He left this world in 1984! Incredible what lead lists/CRM systems leave out. However the even worse lie salespeople tell is “we can do that!” and then start an internal pitch for their company to customize an (often unprofitable) product exception just to get the deal. What’s even more amazing is how often companies comply.

    • Martiey: I’m sorry, but your story is so funny. I wish it were unusual, the tragic thing is I hear of these stories and experience them myself. It’s as though common sense, business logic don’t exist. Think of the lost productivity, the bad business decisions and unhappy customers.

      I’d laugh, but the whole thing is so sad! Thanks so much for the comment Martiey!

  4. @David, Great, but sad, story (loved the chuckle). I have become even more extreme in that I never take unsolicited calls. My voicemail refers people to email, where I can screen them more quickly. To me, lying indicates ignorance and/or lack of creativity. If slsp doesn’t know you well enough to give you a value prop, s/he has no business calling; in this day of social business, information about the outcomes the prospect wants, in situations in which product/service is relevant, is essentially free. There’s no excuse for being uninformed. Ignorant selling is a bloody ocean and getting bloodier.

    • Christopher, sorry for the slow reply, something’s odd with the system, just got notified of your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. There is no excuse for a sales person to be unprepared, everyone seems to agree, yet few really are. It’s a sad state of affairs for our profession.

      • @David, I have worked with 100s of B2B slsp over the years, and I think I appreciate that the world has changed. Like an ice age to reptiles. It’s no one’s fault. Change sometimes just happens. What I’ve observed, and experienced, is that slsp can qualify by interacting online, at a far lower cost. True, not relevant to *every* prospect type, but every quarter adoption proceeds. BTW, I’m a B2B slsp too, but it’s my firm, so not for “hire.”

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