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Top 10 Lies Customers Tell Sales Reps

Let's face it: customers sometimes lie. What's difficult is that, as a salesperson, your options are limited. Unless you don't plan on doing business with that customer again, you can't exactly point out that the customer just told a whopper. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to go over some common lies that customers tell -- and give some advice on how to cope.

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LIE #10: "We don't have the budget."
How often it's actually true: About 25 percent of the time.

Why they tell this lie: This is shorthand for "we have budget money assigned to other projects that are considered higher priority."

Your best response: Through questioning and conversation, gather information about where money is currently being spent. Once you've discovered what's funded and why, reposition your offering and the value it provides so that it becomes higher priority than the budget items that are currently funded.

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LIE #9: "I promise to read your brochure."
How often it's actually true: Never.

Why they tell this lie: They're either trying to get rid of you, or they're being nice. The only time that anybody will ever read your brochure is when somebody wants to sell you his "brochure re-writing" service.

Your best response: Stop depending upon brochures for anything other than a physical proof that your company has marketing money to burn. In some situations, you've got to have a brochure or your firm doesn't look serious. But that doesn't mean that anybody will ever read them.

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LIE #8: "I am the sole decision-maker."
How often it's actually true: In anything other than "Mom and Pop" operations, almost never. And even then, Mom probably has veto power over Pop and vice versa.

Why they tell this lie: The customer contact wants to hide the fact that he really can't make a decision without consulting others.

Your best response: Ask about the specific reporting structure and gently probe to find out the "stakeholders" who "influence" the decision. Read between the lines and you'll probably be able to figure out which people actually have to be "sold" in order for a deal to go through.

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LIE #7: "Your competition is much cheaper."
How often it's actually true: About 50 percent of the time.

Why they tell this lie: To get you to drop your prices.

Your best response: You do the same as you would if the competitor actual WERE cheaper. You position your offering, and the privilege of working with your company, as being of massively higher value than working with your competitor.

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LIE #6: "We always get a big discount."
How often it's actually true: Never.

Why they tell this lie: Same as #7; they're trying to get you to drop your prices.

Your best response: Ignore it and stand firm. Demands for discounts, especially at the end of a sales cycle are usually just the customer testing to see if they've gotten the "best deal." If you drop your price in demand for an automatic discount, you'll lose credibility and end up cutting a non-profitable deal.

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LIE #5: "I'm sorry I missed our meeting."
How often it's actually true: If it happens more than once, it's definitely a lie.

Why they tell this lie: They're trying to gloss over the fact that they blew you off.

Your best response: Let it go, but remember:customer now owes you one, whether he realizes it consciously or not.

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LIE #4: "She's not in the office."
How often it's actually true: Assuming it's a cold-call, probably 10 percent of the time.

Why they tell this lie: The admin is protecting the decision-maker from contact with sales reps, usually because the real decision-maker is a pushover when it comes to sales.

Your best response: Treat it as if it were true. Ask when would be a good time to call. You may need to sell the admin on the idea that your call is important enough to put through.

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LIE #3: "Hi! I'm away from my desk right now..."
How often it's actually true: For most office-bound executives, about 25 percent of the time.

Why they tell this lie: They're screening their calls so that they can get some real work done.

Your best response: Call very early in the morning, or call multiple times over the weekend. (Be sure to have call blocking so that you don't come up looking like a stalker). Most executives work extra hours and they mostly take their own calls when the office is empty.

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LIE #2: "Our bidding process is fair."
How often it's actually true: Most of the time. But rigged bidding is pretty common in some industries. (You know who you are...)

Why they tell this lie: They're hiding the fact that a competitor -- probably for irrational or illegal reasons -- has the inside track.

Your best approach: If you're certain it's a lie, cut off all contact with the customer. The business that they'd give you isn't worth the hassle. Trust me on this one.

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LIE #1: "The check is in the mail."
How often it's actually true: If the check is more than 5 days late, almost never.

How to tell if it's truly a lie: If this is the second time you've heard the statement, the check is definitely NOT in the mail.

Your best response: Explain that your mailbox is frequently vandalized. Insist that they cancel the outstanding check and send you a new one, using package tracking. That way there will always be a record of any check sent to you.

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