- Your clients won’t always like the recommendations you make, especially when it means they have to change.
- Not telling the full, unvarnished truth doesn’t protect your client from running headlong into a brutal reality.
- Tell the truth at any price, even the price of a deal.
The client complained that the sales organization had failed them in the prior year. That failure caused the client to spend more money to accomplish the work that, had the sales organization succeeded, would have been done faster and a lower price. The sales organization had asked for the financial resources necessary to do the necessary work, but the client balked at the investment—an investment far less than what they eventually paid for the same outcome.
Your Client Isn’t Always Going to Like What You Recommend
There will be times when you have to tell your client something they don’t want to hear, like that they have to spend more money to get the results they want. Nothing about being a professional B2B salesperson, let alone a trusted advisor, means that your top priority is making your clients happy: your job is to help them make the decisions that improve their results. Those who prioritize client happiness often do so because they wish to be liked, worrying that if the client thinks less of them, they may lose their business.
Your role as a consultative salesperson requires you to tell your client the truth about what they need to do to improve their results, even if they don’t like your recommendation, and even if they are unhappy hearing the truth. Tell the truth at any price, including the price of losing your deal, because it’s not about your client’s feelings—it’s about their success. Difficult conversations come with the territory, which is why you cannot be conflict-averse and why you must pair truth-telling with diplomacy.
You Can’t Protect Your Client from Reality
You cannot protect your client from reality, but you can help them adjust to it. Would-be miracle-makers tend to promise more than what they can do, especially when it comes to minimizing the client’s need to change and to invest in the solution. Instead of trying to turn lead into the gold your client needs, you serve them by telling them the best way to acquire the gold is to pay for it, a method far more reliable than alchemy.
If you are dead set on being a miracle-maker for your client, use your powers to convince them to make the changes they need to produce the results they want, especially the changes they resist making. Making that conversation about investment—in time, money, and resources—is far more effective than making it about magic.
Keeping Your Commitments
There is never a reason to commit to something you cannot do, or to commit your colleagues to an outcome you know they can’t deliver. You must prevent your client from believing that they can have what they want without doing what is necessary, including spending more money than they expected. Instead, help them adjust their expectations, so their investment corresponds to what they’ll actually gain from the deal. And if they still won’t commit to the changes and investments they need to make, walk away.
There is no doubt that your industry includes some salespeople who will tell the client whatever they need to hear to win their business. They’re playing the short game, not the long game, so their success won’t last. But that success can be tempting: if you know your competitor is going to lie about what they can do, why not take the deal? What difference does it make? The difference is integrity, and no deal is worth losing yours.
Integrity at Any Cost
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The first agreement reads, “Be impeccable with your word.” You are your word. Those who play the short game and are reckless with their word eventually pay the high price of not being trusted. As I’ve said here before, three factors make you a trusted advisor: 1.) trust, 2.) advice, and 3.) proactively preventing your clients from harm they could avoid.
You can’t build a client portfolio, let alone a sales career, on lies. And yes, lying includes agreeing to produce a result for your client when you know it can’t be done without the client changing what they need to change. When you walk away from a client who demands the impossible, you can expect one of your low-integrity competitors to step in and promise them the moon. Let them fail your prospective client. They may win the deal—at the price of their own integrity—but they won’t keep the contract.
Recently, I heard a story about a client-facing employee who had a crisis of conscience and could no longer lie to his client on behalf of their sales organization. He quit the job, but not before apologizing to the client and attaching a written document exposing all the lies. The job was just not worth his integrity.
Do Good Work:
- When your client needs to make a change to produce the better results they need, tell them the truth about what is required of them.
- Act with the integrity and honor befitting a trusted advisor.
- Tell the truth, at any price. Even when it doesn’t benefit you or your bottom line, it benefits your client.