Resolving the “Truthful Salesman” Paradox

Truthful Salesman Paradox

When I wrote about “Integrity Selling,” I suggested that for salespeople, working with integrity meant speaking and acting truthfully. In a profession where our primary role is to move products and generate revenue, this advice can sound like a complete contradiction. How can you maximise sales if you’re telling the whole truth, all the time? How do we resolve the truthful salesman paradox?

The Truthful Salesman – Sales Roles of the 21st Century

The role of the salesperson has changed over the last few decades: we have evolved from product pushers to partners; from information keepers to information curators; and trusted vendors to trusted advisors. For professional salespeople selling high value products, it is no longer viable to simply push people into the sale. We must develop trust and rapport, empathise with our prospects, and help them make an informed decision about solving their problems. These can only be achieved from being truthful with our prospects.

The Truthful Salesman Paradox: “How will I sell anything if I’m always telling the truth?”

That is a great question! I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’d like to address this by suggesting that telling the truth does not equal full disclosure. For men, I’m sure you can relate to your wife/partner asking “Does this dress make me look fat?” Social sensitivity and decency requires us to be tactful in such situations. A truthful but callous “Yes hon, you look fat in that dress” isn’t going to go down so well. As highly skilled wordsmiths, we must find artful ways to address such questions without compromising our integrity. “I liked that other dress better” is one possible alternative to the above scenario, but since everyone is different I’ll leave it with you to solve that conundrum!

Tip #1: Disclose Relevant Weaknesses

This advice in itself carries another paradox: disclosing weaknesses of your product can actually increase your chances of getting the sale. When you demonstrate that you possess an objective view of your own product, your prospects will be more likely to trust what you say. As mentioned previously, telling about weaknesses does not mean full disclosure. You should only disclose what is relevant to the client’s enjoyment of the product.

For example, if your product cannot fulfill a particular buying criterion, tell them so! On the other hand, if your company is having problems with staff morale, this has no relevance whatsoever to the prospect, and so does not need to be disclosed. No product can solve all problems perfectly, and most clients won’t expect it to. Helping the prospect make an informed decision means telling the pros AND cons of your product for their situation.

Tip #2: Highlight Strengths and Differentiators

No matter what you sell, your product is going to have strengths and points of differentiation from your competitors. When presenting your solution, focus the prospect’s attention on how your product will solve their problems, and in what ways your product is better than other options. Your ability to do this will ultimately determine your closing rate. If you aren’t able to articulate these strengths and differentiators, it may be time to find another product and company to represent!

Tip #3: Don’t Sell to Unqualified Prospects!

“What if your solution is not the best fit for the prospect?” I’m so glad you asked! If your solution can’t solve the client’s problem, then do you really want them as a client? (Hint: this is a rhetorical question!). If your product is not a good fit for the prospect, then don’t sell it to them! You will save the relationship and heartache of dealing with an unhappy client. Furthermore, since you have established that you are more interested in their wellbeing than just getting a sale, who do you think they will look for if their requirements change? (Hint: Another rhetorical question!)

Resolving the Truthful Salesman Paradox: Conclusion

To resolve the Truthful Salesman Paradox, we need to help our prospects make fully informed decisions. We can achieve this through disclosing relevant weaknesses, highlighting our strengths and differentiators, and just not sell to unqualified prospects. You will maintain your integrity, self-respect, and be more successful from it!

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