Honesty in sales?
"Honesty" and "sales person" are not commonly two words paired together in word association exercises. Despite the prevailing stereotype, most sales people are ethical professionals offering a product or service. However, in some cases, honesty and sales person shouldn't be paired together because sales people are afraid to be honest. Being honest with people helps both parties. The rule for doing this is, "If you feel it, say it gently". Of course, this rule doesn't give you a license to say anything that can hurt someone. I don't mean the rule literally.
Third party stories are a great way to be honest with prospects and clients without being confrontational. If a prospect tells a sales person a planned solution to a problem that the sales person has seen fail, they need to address the issue. "Not sure it's the case with you, and honestly it may not be, however when that has been implemented in the past by other companies I know, I have seen them run into problems A, B and C. Do you foresee that as an issue for you or does it make sense we discuss those problems?"
Sometimes sales people need to be honest for the sake of sales efficiency. Clients and prospects commonly stall sales people with think-it-overs and other polite "no's". Again, that's a good time to be honest. While sales people can't accuse a prospect of putting them off and wasting time, unless the salesperson allows, and they can say (gently), "It's probably not happening here, but when a prospect tells me they want to think it over it often means no in my world, but they're too nice to tell me since they don't want to hurt my feelings. I just want to make sure that's not what's happening here."
There are an infinite number of examples in selling where sales people get uncomfortable being honest. Typically we're uncomfortable because we fear a negative reaction. While negative responses do happen, most people appreciate a sales professional that can foresee complications, will be direct about addressing mistakes, and looks to efficiently solve problems. Remember that tact goes a long way in these situations and we need to be gentle when relaying the information. When that is mastered you'll find yourself in the fortunate position of being honest with people, and getting the same in return.
Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners and is the recipient of the David H. Sandler Award, awarded to the top Sandler trainer in the world. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the World. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or firstname.lastname@example.org