Lies in Your InboxArticle by Colleen Francis, May 10, 2022
Do you have lies in your inbox?
“Hi there! Greetings!
On my visit at your office, I found out that your organization is still using the manual registers for visitor’s entry.
Registers are prone to error in adding visitor’s details, fraudulent activities, data manipulation, time consuming, old-fashioned , hard to find the [sic] old data.
We help the businesses in automating the visitor’s entry and they can integrate this data to their CRM and this data can be used by Sales and Marketing team.
If you are the right person of [sic] contact, Would you be available for 15 mins demo session this week?
Else [sic] can you refer me to the right person of contact?”
I’ll bet that—just like me—you get emails all the time like the one I just cited above. It’s disheartening. Over a dozen years have passed since I co-authored my first book, Honesty Sells, in which I made a solid case that there’s no place for dishonesty in the sales profession. And yet lies like the ones in that damning email—poorly written, no less—keep filling up inboxes everywhere.
What did that particular seller hope to accomplish with their outreach? It won’t surprise you to know that this person has never visited my office. Nor do I have manual registers in my office. I know this…and they know I know this. And yet, they still decide to make this their opening move! This is how they’re choosing to define what they hope will be a new business relationship.
Well, they got my attention…but not in the way they’d hoped.
So, why then is lying as a means of getting a foot in the door still so pervasive? Is it that it’s rewarded enough to make each transgression worth the risk? I can’t imagine that to be the case. That’s a shortsighted strategy that eventually catches up with anyone.
Here are some thoughts about why the lies keep on coming…even though it only hurts the seller. Sometimes, even terminally.
Lies in Your Inbox: 5 Reasons They Keep Happening
1. Lying Is Easier Than Doing the Work
Lying happens for a reason: just not a very good one. As American neuroscientist Sam Harris points out in his essay, Lying, it “is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood.” As a seller, your first job is to correctly understand the needs of your customers. If you get that wrong, nothing else you do will matter. To illustrate: I recently received a separate email from an “online contest votes provider” (how’s that for a title?) with this offer: “Do you need any help to win [name of contest withheld to avoid embarrassing the seller any further]…I help participants win the contest by providing cast votes.” Suffice to say: had that individual put even the tiniest effort into understanding my needs, my business, and my values, they’d know that winning something at any price means nothing to me. You can’t be lazy and succeed in sales.
2. Understanding Takes Time
Another reason I suspect is behind why lies keep filling our inboxes is that many sellers can’t be bothered to spend time to gain a deeper understanding of their audience. Research takes time and costs money…whereas it can seem like the cost of sending an email—even a dishonest one—is practically zero. If their research budget is as slim as their desire to understand someone well, their thinking likely goes this way: “Why not just lie and hope for the best? And if things don’t turn out…there’s no cost, right?” Dead wrong. And that takes me to my next point.
3. There’s Always a Cost
There’s no such thing as a zero-cost email. There is a price to everything in business. If you choose to make dishonesty an integral part of how you treat others, that will define you and your brand…and will do so in a way that you might never be able to shake off. That risk extends to others close by who see a lie being engaged and choose to do nothing about it. Let’s say you’re working for a company and you catch wind of something dishonest that’s brewing in another division. You have an ethical and moral responsibility to speak out and do the right thing. Your brand and your reputation are on the line here—never just someone else’s.
4. There’s No Such Thing as a Business Lie
Sometimes, we hear someone rationalize their dishonesty, attempting to minimize it by saying, “It’s not a real lie…it’s just a business lie.” I can promise you that your audience won’t see it that way. They will never forget how you make them feel, as Maya Angelou once pointed out. And being lied to in business is at once unforgivable…and unforgettable.
5. Think Customer Centricity
In my new book, Right on the Money, I talk about how your customer must be at the center of how you do business now. Those who choose to buy from you expect you to tailor the entire process to them and their needs. That includes being honest with them and being someone worthy of their trust. If you do the opposite, be prepared for equally disappointing results. Lying just teaches others that you’ll do anything to close a deal. And that’s something entirely outside of customer centricity.
WE CAN—AND MUST—DO BETTER IN SERVICE OF BUILDING TRUST!
To conclude: I’m not sharing these stories to condemn some sellers as being irredeemably unethical in their email pitches. What I am saying is that those same individuals have been misled into believing that being lazy is a strategy. Lies don’t sell. But they do scale: just not in the way you’d wish. All they end up doing is hurting trust in the selling business—and does so at a time when we need to be doing more to build trust between people.