In many sales organizations, there is too little candor. There are conversations that need to be had that are instead avoided. If the candid conversations were had, the sales organization’s performance would improve, their obstacles would be more quickly removed, and the changes needed would occur. The performance of individuals would improve too, if someone would tell them the truth. But the truth is avoided.

High-performing sales organizations are honest with themselves and their clients.

A Word of Caution

Following Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People would solve many of the problems most of us have in human relations. In human relations, fast is slow, and slow is fast. Candor is fast. Therefore, you need to do some pre-work.

Covey’s metaphor of an emotional bank account is the key to candor. You can’t make withdraws from the emotional bank account that exceed your deposits without running into real problems. If you are going to be candid, you have to make the deposits before you make the withdraw. And candor can be a major withdraw.

Candor with Your Clients

The biggest area where salespeople can improve is in being candid with their clients. Too many of us fear that telling the client the truth will cost us the opportunity when it will in fact win us the opportunity.

We believe that if we tell the client what it will really cost them to get the result that they need, that they will believe the price is too high. The lack of candor means that we lose the opportunity because we built a solution that won’t produce the result, or that we price the solution wrong and that so can’t afford to get the result that the client needs.

If your client needs to invest more to get the result, you have to be candid and deliver the truth.

We believe that if we are candid about how difficult our change initiative is really going to be that we will frighten our dream client away. Or we fear being candid in telling our client that the reason that they can’t produce their desired result is something that they are doing, that they are causing their own problems.

If your client has a constraint that is preventing them from getting the result that they need, you become a strategic partner by finding a way to help them see it. You tell them the truth.

Trust is based on truthfulness.

Candor for Sales Managers

Candor enables speed.

If you are a sales manager, you are obligated to tell your salespeople what they are doing wrong, what is expected of them, and how they need their beliefs, behaviors, and actions to change to improve their performance. Allowing your team to continue to do things that hurt their performance is a tacit approval and it is an endorsement of those beliefs, behaviors, and actions.

If a salesperson isn’t prospecting, you need to be candid and have a conversation about what needs to change. If their opportunities aren’t qualified, you might save their feelings when they excitedly share their excitement with you, but you are also allowing them to continue take an action that will later hurt both of you.

One of the areas we allow a salesperson to avoid the truth is in opportunity and deal reviews. We want the opportunity, they want the opportunity, and neither of us wants to talk about the massive obstacle to the deal or what we are going to do about it. We fear having to remove the opportunity from the forecast.

Candor is a better, safer, and faster approach.

This isn’t “spare the rod and spoil the child.” It’s simply making sure you give your people what they need—including the truth. The outcome isn’t to punish; it’s improvement.

Candor for Salespeople

It isn’t a sign of weakness to need help. It’s a sign of weakness to need help and not to ask for it.

If you are a salesperson, you need to be candid with your sales manager about what you need to succeed. If you are struggling in some area, having an honest conversation about what you need is the fast path to making improvements. Avoiding asking for help will only allow you to limp along, under-producing and under-performing, until something awful happens.

You also need to be candid about your opportunities. When a deal has hair all over it, you have to be candid about what it is really going to take to win the opportunity and to execute for the client. Avoiding the candid conversations here makes it more likely the deal will be lost, or that it will be won and your operations team won’t be prepared to serve your new client.

If you want candor, be candid. But also remember you too need to make deposits in your relationships.

It’s Personal

As much as we’d like to believe that “it’s just business; it isn’t personal,” candor can be perceived as being very personal. Sometimes it is extremely personal. Remembering that we are all human, and that we need to be human for others, is the key to enabling a culture of candor.

Your team can handle the truth only if you make the deposits in the relationships that allow candor. Be human and care about other people’s feelings. Ignoring their feelings and emotions doesn’t produce great results, and it surely doesn’t produce results faster.

If you are the subject of a candid conversation, remember that the outcome of the candid conversation is your improved performance. Be honest with yourself, and avoid being defensive about the improvements you need to make.


Does your sales organization have a culture of candor?

Are you candid with your clients about what they need to succeed?

Do you make the deposits in the emotional bank accounts that allow you to later make withdraws?

When does candor sometimes cause problems? How do you prevent those problems?

What do you need to have a candid conversation about right now? With whom? Can you make that withdraw without overdrawing your account?

Sales, 2012
Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
February 13, 2012
salescall-planner-ebook-v3-1-cover (1)