I received a LinkedIn message from a supposed salesperson who suggested he wanted to introduce me to a prospect. I accepted his connection request. Being busy, it took a while for me to get back to LinkedIn. When I returned, I asked the person how I could help.
I was greeted with this message:
I thought you might be interested in hearing about our virtual assistant services for your industry. You would have a dedicated virtual assistant to help your business with Lead generation, customer service, follow-up, social media, bookkeeping, calendar management, content creation, web services, and more. We are the only virtual assistant agency that has a business growth plan in place rather than just providing a virtual assistant. Most of our candidates are fully bilingual in English and Spanish, have 2–5 years of experience, and have a college degree. Pricing starts at $6 USD per hour with no contract ties and no fees.
He included a slide deck titled “Short Pitch.”
I responded, “The old bait and switch. Terrible strategy to start with a lie. No path to success. Loss of trust in a few seconds.”
Proving he is oblivious, he replied, “Anthony, why do you think it is a lie? In marketing this is called a hook. Regardless, I would love to jump on the phone and see if there is a way to help each other even if it is not for you.”
I replied, “Because it was a lie, not a hook. I would never waste my time with a liar. Because you would lie once, you would again.”
I am too kind to include this person’s name in print. He did not harm me, but he is harming himself. His profile states he is the founder of this company and also a member of the Faith Driven Entrepreneur Foundation Group.
The Importance of Trust in Sales
One large client I was trying to retain, asked me to come to Chicago to present to their senior leadership team. The RFP required the company to produce a certain set of outcomes. Having handled their account for many years, I knew that what they required was impossible, not just for me, but for anybody. They may as well have asked for a time machine.
The nine people sitting around the table started to ask me questions. One of the leaders said, “Why are you sitting here? You are the only person that didn’t sign that you would produce these outcomes.” I was prepared with a history of their results, explaining why no one would be able to do what they required. I showed them all the data and educated them on how the industry works.
My competitors had brought their teams, and I had shown up by myself. When I had finished, the corporate lawyer said, “This is the first honest person to sit in that chair.”
I retained my $3,000,000 annual client. Two days later, the head of human resources called me to ask me which competitor they should choose in the cities where my company had no presence. They trusted I would tell them the truth.
I have lost two large clients because I refused to lie to them. I have lost a number of clients because I wasn’t willing to tell them they could have whatever they wanted. Longtime readers will have heard me say this before: "The truth at any price, even the price of your deal.”
There Is No Lie Worth Your Integrity or Your Relationships
In sales, there is no such thing as a little white lie because trust is at stake. Once you lie to a contact, everything you say after will be suspect. You need only two things to be a trusted advisor, trust and advice. Without the trust, your client isn’t likely to take your advice.
Consider the opening story of this post, with the bait and switch. What makes this story so awful is that the company’s founder proves he is not trustworthy while he tries to engage with contacts at the same time. Like a lot of what you still see on LinkedIn, this spray-and-pray approach comes with a long pitch. I am not willing to engage with this person to explain this, but LinkedIn isn’t a place to push. It is a place to create pull by sharing content. This salesperson is spreading his bad reputation without knowing it.
How Not to Break Your Client’s Trust
I am doubtful that any reader of this blog needs reminding not to lie to their clients. But I am writing this post for the people who might need it, as Google helps them find the answers they need.
Even if it is uncomfortable or causes a bit of conflict, tell the truth. You may need to count on your diplomacy to soften the facts, but you cannot allow a client to believe something you know to be incorrect. You may also need to explain what you and your client can do to help them produce the results they need. This is how you establish yourself as a trusted advisor.