He Lied To Me!

The first thing he said. The  very  first  words  that came out of his mouth were an out-and-out, deliberate lie…

It’s a regular Tuesday afternoon. The phone rings. Unknown number. I answer.

“Hi Kevin, I was just speaking with one of your colleagues, and they said you’d be the best person to speak with.”

Which was interesting – I was the only one there.

think: “Why are you lying to me?”. I say: “How exciting, go on.” 

Cue sales pitch…

I guess his logic isn’t entirely warped. It’s always preferable to have some kind of warm introduction to a new prospect. And if there isn’t one, perhaps it is tempting to fabricate one?

But as a ruse, it’s hardly robust is it?  “So which colleague did you speak to?” – “Erm…” “Which number did you catch them on?” – “Ah, well..” 

And it’s a shame. I’d formerly had some knowledge, even respect, for the company. They have a smart product. One day, I may even have become a customer. Not now though. Hell no!

Any organisation that regards its customers, and its own integrity, with such disdain, is not one with whom you want a relationship. 

Whether through explicit direction, or insufficient controls (for which read ‘lack of interest’), their willingness to let their frontline staff lie and trick customers says all you need to know about how any future relationship would work out.

  • How much do you think they’ll worry about really delivering on their sales promises?
  • How genuine and supportive will their customer service be?
  • How well will they respect the terms of the deal we agree?

And it’s all so unnecessary. In fact, it’s lazy. And reckless.

It would be no trouble at all to have sent a warm-up email in advance, to have asked if I minded them calling. I may have declined, but it wouldn’t have yielded any worse results than the lazy lie.

Besides the rant (thank you, I feel much better now) there’s an inevitable moral to this tale. Beyond the obvious ‘first impressions count’ and ‘10 ways to warm up a cold lead’ clickbait, the subtler message is about the risks and responsibilities of scale and outsourcing

You can’t make every call yourself. You can’t sit in on every conversation. So, assuming that, unlike our case study here, you do have values and a moral code, then make sure these aspects are as much a part of your employee and contractor onboarding, as everything else. You’d never dream of leaving a new sales person to their own instincts about the benefits or technical capabilities of your products, so why on earth would you skip the core part of every sales dialogue – building rapport and trust?!

Some of the fundamentals to consider:

Delegation is an essential part of growing, but… 

  • As your business grows it becomes harder to juggle multiple roles and all the tasks that come with them. So at some point, you will need to delegate or outsource certain activities.
  • This brings huge benefits – namely that you are free to spend time on other things both within and outside the business – but it does not mean you can simply abdicate yourself of responsibility. Regardless of who undertakes the activities within or outside of your business, the buck ultimately stops with you.
  • It pays to go beyond the necessary due diligence when hiring staff, freelancers or contracting work to third-party providers. These people will be representing your brand, so you need to be absolutely sure they ‘get it’ – that they share your core values and company ethos – or you will be forever clearing up after the incongruity they create. 

Define clear parameters

  • Just as you’ve developed a system of measures and controls to monitor the quality of your products, you also need one to manage the quality of your sales activities – i.e. that your sales force remain aligned to your goals and values.
  • If this system rests solely on incentivising targets, it will inevitably drive very specific behaviours – the kind, as in my story, that can jeopardise true client relationships. 
  • Your challenge is to achieve a balance between the ground-level sales performance goals, and the strategic vision and reputation of the business. After all, what good is a one-off sale if the potential for repeat business or upselling has been compromised by unscrupulous tactics?
  • One solution is to track both quantity (sales closed, clients acquired) and outcome (customer satisfaction, retention and so on), setting parameters for each and rewarding only when all criteria are met. 

Build a cohesive team

  • As your business grows, so too does the pressure to make more sales to fuel your expansion. But a working environment that promotes competitiveness within your employees can be just as problematic as a target-centric incentive structure. Not least, because it encourages similar undesirable behaviour.
  • If each member of the team is working for themselves and not together to achieve a common aim, it can be ultimately destructive to the wider goals of the business. So alongside measures to monitor performance, also include a provision to promote behaviours like teamwork and effective communication, and recognise joint successes as equally as those achieved individually. 

While some of this may seem intuitive, it is easy to let things slip, especially when attention is diverted away from micro-level events like everyday operations, to macro issues like the scaling of your budding enterprise. 

Finally remember that however fantastic your product or service is, it cannot make up for underhand and short-sighted sales practices. Irrespective of whether you operate in the B2B or B2C marketplace, people buy from those they trust. When you become complacent and reckless with people’s trust, it’s near-impossible to win them over again. 

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