Why Prospects Lie to Sales People and how to change their minds


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I saw this article from Seth Godin last week “Why Lie” on why prospects lie to salespeople in another forum and commented on it. I’m not sure if you saw it, so I have referenced it below and want to add a comment and a few links to resources as I have written on this subject before.

Why lie?

“We’ve decided to hire someone with totally different skills than yours…” and then they hire someone just like you, but more expensive and not as good.

“We’re not going to buy a car this month, my husband wants to wait…” and then you see them driving a new car from that other dealer, the one with the lousy reputation.  

Spot the Genuine Smile

truth in selling“I’m just not interested…” and then you see the new RFP, one you could have helped them write to get a more profitable and productive outcome.
People lie to salespeople all the time. We do it because salespeople have trained us to, and because we’re afraid.

Prospects (people like us) lie in many situations, because when we announce that we”ve made the decision to hire someone else, or when we tell the pitching entrepreneur we don’t like her business model, or when we clearly articulate why we’re not going to do business, the salesperson responds by questioning the judgment of the prospect.

In exchange for telling the truth, the prospect is disrespected. Of course we don’t tell the truth–if we do, we’re often bullied or berated or made to feel dumb.

Is it any surprise that it’s easier to just avoid the conflict altogether? Of course, there’s an alternative, but it requires confidence and patience on the part of the seller and marketer.

Someone who chooses not to buy from you isn’t stupid. They’re not unable to process ideas logically, nor are they unethical or manipulated by others.
No, it’s simpler than that: 
Given what they know and what they believe, the prospect is making exactly the right decision.

We always make our decision based on what we know and believe. That’s a tautology, based on the definition… a decision is the path you take based on what you know and believe, right?

The challenge, then, it seems to me, is to realize that perhaps the prospect knows something you don’t, or, just as likely, doesn’t believe what you believe.
Your job as a marketer is to figure out what your prospect’s biases and worldview and fears and beliefs are, and as a salesperson, your job is to help them know what you know.
If you keep questioning our judgment, we’re going to keep lying to you.” Seth Godin, March 04, 2011.

Salepeople are paid well to Change Minds 

Great insight on the reasons why most people including you, me and all of the readers of this blog think its OK to lie to sales people. (think back to the last time you bought a car…were you perfectly honest with every salesperson you met in the process?) 

Our job as salespeople is to change minds through having insightful conversations. One of the most valuable insights in the new book by Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson, “The Challenger Sale” (TCS), is that changing minds is exactly what the most successful salespeople (The Challengers), are doing to be successful. The really great news is that anyone with appropriate coaching, enablement tools and support can do this.

The messaging methodology for changing minds included in TCS is extremely valuable for sales and marketing leadership struggling with how to do this. For those who haven’t read the book, I have summarized it below. 

Challenger Sale Messaging Methodology

Your job as a salesperson is to expand the customers view of the World as itthe challengerpertains to their goals/problems – and their understanding of the capabilities and value created through using your products/services.

  • What are your compelling capabilities? 
  • What capabilities do your customers under-appreciate most? 
  • Why don’t customers appreciate them? = their point of view.
  • Your job – expand their point of view 

STEP 1. Lead with a hypothesis of your customers need, backed by your experience and research. – get acknowledgment this is the case 

STEP 2. Reframe – introduce a new perspective, be bold!- connect challenges to a bigger problem/opportunity. (we want the customer saying- I never thought about it that way, not agreement) 

STEP 3. Rational Drowning – Lay out the business case, why our perspective is important, data, graphs, analysis, ROI on solving challenges 

STEP 4. Emotional Impact – tell a story of how painful similar companies found it by behaving the same way they do i.e. the pain of the status quo vs. the upside from changing 

STEP 5. A New Way – A point by point review of new capabilities they will need to capitalize on the opportunity. They have to buy into your vision, before they buy into your stuff 

STEP 6. Your solution

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson has been at the forefront of developing sales and marketing tools that create clarity in messaging value for 30 years. As a consultant he is now engaged in helping sales, marketing and enablement teams to get clear about value creation. Clarity attracts inbound leads, clarity converts visitors into leads and leads into customers, clarity builds mindshare, clarity engages customers, clarity differentiates value, clarity helps onboard new hires clarity helps raise funds, clarity + execution win markets.


  1. Mark, thanks for the excellent article. Almost all of us have lied to gracefully and quickly get out of a sales situation. It is a natural human response to avoid the pain of being sold something, especially if the salesperson is persistent and obnoxious.

    I like your suggestions as to how a salesperson can change the perspective of the prospect. But from a marketing standpoint, we strongly encourage our clients to practice pull marketing strategies. Basically, this involves creating massive awareness, differentiating your company, staying in touch with prospects in a non-threatening way, and making it easier for them to buy when they are ready. This is certainly a more pleasant and profitable way to do business than dealing with lies.

    Chris Ryan

  2. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment. Im a big avocate of inbound marketing myself and can see how prospects have less incentive lie when they find you vs when you call them cold.

    Having said that, I find that inbound prospects will lie when asked to do something they are uncomfortable with or not yet ready to do. Selling requires such a high level of communication skill….I’ve been doing it for a long time and still feel like a klutz sometimes.

    All the best,


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