When is it okay to lie?
"When an old inactive client on my list won't respond to my calls and letters," a financial professional at a recent workshop told the group, "I send a card confirming our appointment - an appointment we don't have - and that gets them to call me."
"But that's a lie," I responded. "You're using a lie to get them to call you."
"So?" the indignant advisor shot back. "Clients lie all the time."
While she was right that clients are often less than truthful about things they tell us, of course, the idea that it was, therefore, okay for a professional to lie--to get an appointment or to close a sale--bothered me.
A few days later, I came across an e-mail from a colleague, Ari Galper, complaining that somewhere along the line it seems to have become okay to lie. Only we don't call them lies, Ari complained, we call them techniques:
"I'm conducting a survey..." (when you're really not)
"I was going to be in your neighborhood..." (when you really weren't going to be)
"I'm confirming our appointment..." (when there is none)
"There are just two left..." (when there are plenty left)
Many of the so-called "client development gurus" are teaching professionals that the end (getting the client) justifies the means (saying anything, without regard for the truth). It's no wonder that the professionals and entrepreneurs who find their way to me tell me that when they hear the word "sales" they run for cover. They think of the car salesman in the bad hairpiece and the loud checkered jacket who pretends to bring your counter-offer to his manager.
By the way, if you didn't know this already--that car salesman who tells you he needs to see if he can get a better price from his manager is often in the manager's office talking sports, not the best offer for you. They already know what the bottom-line price will be.
In growing your business or practice, the end never justifies the means. Tell your clients and prospects the truth so that they'll have a reason to trust you. They may be conditioned to lie, but it will be easier to get to their truths if you are being authentic.
The advisor who addressed the group at my workshop was proud of the fact that her lie compelled these inactive clients to communicate with her--something they had previously refused to do. The lie got them to contact her, but I could almost promise that they went back to being inactive. If I were the client, I'd be firmly convinced that the lie she told to get my attention justified my decision not to keep working with her.
You'll get more clients when you take the pressure off yourself to play games with the truth.