Buyers are Liars

There’s a phrase that’s been popularized in sales which says “buyers are liars.” It refers to those who say they want one thing but end up buying another. I’ve never liked the phrase, and even though it’s occasionally true, I believe there’s another group that deserves the title much more in my opinion.  It’s the non-buyers who are often the real liars!

David:                   Hi, and welcome to the podcast! Today co-host Chris Templeton and I will debunk the notion that buyers are liars. Welcome back, Chris.

Chris:                     Hi David. You know, it’s likely that every salesperson has heard this phrase and even said at a time or two, especially when things weren’t going well. So, what makes you think, David, that buyers aren’t liars?

David:                   Okay. They have to prove their veracity in this podcast!

Chris:                     Are you a truth teller?

David:                   Exactly, yeah. I think if they’re buyers, then it means that they bought something from you.  So even if they weren’t telling you the entire truth the whole time, you were at least able to get past it. So I think the fact that they bought something, the idea of saying that buyers are liars is rather insulting to the people who actually spend money with us. I’m far less concerned about saying that non-buyers are liars because in my experience in sales over the years, that really seems to be the case that people who don’t buy from you, the people who string you along, waste your time and do all that sort of thing. They’re the ones who are most often telling you things that just aren’t true. So with buyers, you know you’re able to get past it. So to me that means that most of the liars are the ones who are not doing that. Who are not buying.

Chris:                     And from your standpoint, what do non-buyers tend to lie about the most?

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David:                   Well, there are a bunch of things and they're all familiar to anyone who's been in sales for any length of time. They say they're going to call you back and then they don't call you back. They say they want one particular thing and then they buy something completely different from someone else. They say they're the decision maker and they're not the decision maker. There are all kinds of things. They'll say they'll make a decision by a certain date and then they don't. What else?  They say they'll think about it. Anyone ever said that to you Chris?

Chris:                     No, I've never had that said to me, and I've certainly never said it to any salesperson.

David:                  Exactly, "I'll think about it." Right? And the reality is that even if we've said it ourselves, we'll think about it. Are we really going to think about it? What are we going to think about? And so, very often, even if we've done these things, we didn't mean to lie to somebody.  And maybe in our own heads we didn't think we were, but nine times out of 10 whenever we've done any of those things, we just weren't telling the truth.

Chris:                     Right, right. And it's easy to go down that road without framing it up quite that way, isn't it?

David:                   Yeah, and without thinking of it like that, really it's less about deliberately misleading somebody and more about thinking, "Oh, well, you know, I just need to toss this around in my head for a while." And in a lot of cases people convince themselves that they actually think it's true. It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where George Costanza says, “Remember Jerry, it's not lying if you think it's true!”

Chris:                     When you look at this, how do you think we should handle when we think - or when we know - somebody's lying to us?

David:                   Yeah, it's tough. I mean the first thing is we want to make sure we don't accuse them. “Hey, you're lying to me.” That's not good for relationship building, but we do want to try to pin them down in some ways. In other words, if they're saying they're going to call back on Tuesday and we can say, “Okay, what time Tuesday is good for you, I'll get it on my calendar.” We can do things like that to try to pin it down. We can ask for clarity, so if somebody says they're looking for something very specific, we can make sure that we ask things like: “Is there anything else you're considering? Are there any other options that you're looking for?” So, getting that sort of clarity up front rather than simply taking whatever they say first at face value and assuming it's the whole story.  It's like what they say in a courtroom, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Sometimes they'll give you the truth, but they won't give you the whole truth while I'm thinking about this... (But I'm also thinking about that and that and that.) But they don't say that second part. So that's what we're looking for. We want to make sure that we are getting the clarity that we need from people, so that it all makes sense. And we can also just request confirmation when somebody says something like, you know, they're the decision maker.  You can ask them, “Okay, so this is entirely you? There's nobody else involved in this decision?” “Oh well yeah, there are other people involved, but I'm the decision maker.” Okay, well now at least I know that. So just recognizing that the initial thing that someone says to you might not always be the whole truth. Right? You can handle it better by actually just sort of probing a little more and trying to keep things on track.

Chris:                     You know, the other thing that occurs to me along these lines is that a lot of this, what we can easily call lying is also a lot about resistance and feeling that pressure of being in a sales situation on the buying end of it and being uncomfortable. And I think a lot of what you've talked about like clarity and confirming, you know, things like who's involved in the sales process. If you do it in a way that's relaxed and doesn't feel counter resistive, that a lot of that sense goes away. And I really admire the idea of asking the questions for clarity. Hey, let me make sure I understand this. I think that really helps to get rid of that vibe, don't you?

David:                   I do. And I also think that if we recognize the fact that a lot of them don't mean to not tell us the truth, I think a lot of them don't mean to lie to us. But when we ask questions and when we gain that sort of clarity, it also allows them to really think through the situation and perhaps provide us with more truthful answers.

Chris:                     I almost feel like it needs to be approached from the sales side as a partnership to help to get rid of that resistance of “I've got to protect myself.” Prospects do this. Obviously buyers are doing this as well at some level, don't you think?

David:                   Yeah, I think so and once again, recognizing the fact that they're not setting out to do it. It's like, you know, I'll have a decision on Friday and then Friday rolls around and a bunch of things happened and I didn't really get to think about it and so I don't have a decision. It's not meaning to lie in most cases and so as we indicated with buyers, you're able to overcome it. Now if you have a situation where somebody continues to tell you stuff that is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. If they've got a pattern of it, then you really need to recognize that and say, okay, am I dealing with somebody here who just does not have the capacity to tell the truth?

Chris:                     Right.

David:                   And that happens sometimes as well, and there's a big difference between the two.

Chris:                     Don't you think that the other thing in regards to this is knowing when to "cut your losses" in a way that they recognize that you're doing that kind of letting them off the hook. “Okay. It feels like this isn't the right time” or that whatever, that lets you say, “Okay, I'm taking a step back”, and that almost gives them and incentive to take a look at their own behavior?

David:                   Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's a mistake if we don't do that, particularly if we recognize the pattern and we know that, okay, it's no longer just that they're making a mistake. It's one thing to make a mistake or two, it's another thing to have a constant pattern of not doing what people say they're going to do. There's a great quote from Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach. He said, “The best rules in business that I've ever heard are, show up on time, do what you say you're going to do and say please and thank you.” If you do those three things, you're doing great. And so often in business that's not what happens.  People don't show up on time, they don't do what they say they're going to do, which is really the big one and you know the please and thank you is nice to me, but it's not as critical when I'm on the receiving end as it is to have the first and second ones happen.

Chris:                     I also think that it really goes back to this whole idea of how do you stand with the person that you're dealing with. Like if you get to a point where you're starting to change your behavior in a negative way because of how this is going, you also have to take a look at that as well and say, man, am I now because I'm getting frustrated? Am I now beginning to drive the same process with the prospect or the person that we're hoping will buy from me?  In other words, am I putting them in a situation because of my tone that they're feeling even more resistive?

David:                   Yeah. And not only that, but even our coworkers, cause when you're busy trying to chase somebody who is resisting, it's frustrating and very often we take that frustration out, not just on the person who is avoiding us, but those around us like, “Oh man, I'm trying to get hold of this guy and he won't take my calls…” and all that sort of thing. And now we're sort of polluting the atmosphere with all this stuff. Not just with that person but with other people who could then be affected by that negativity.

Chris:                     I think we've both seen that with, you know, the toxic sales guy who's not doing very well and he runs around the halls. All of the sudden the whole place is getting a little uncomfortable. Right?

David:                   Exactly.

Chris:                     Okay. Let's talk about action steps and what our listeners can do when they think a prospect might not be telling them the truth.

How to Determine if Prospect are Telling You the Truth

  1. Listen Carefully to what your prospects are telling you. Take notes and refer back to them frequently.
  2. Remind Prospects of what they've said (or promised you) in the past. Quote them. Ask if something has changed. If so, get agreement on what the next steps will be. Document those and follow up accordingly.
  3. Don't Take it Personally. When someone is lying to you, it's about them, not you. Sometimes they might not even realize they're lying.
  4. Keep Track of who's telling you what, as outlined above. It will allow you to spot the real liars, so you can choose whether or not to continue to interact with them.

David:                   Right. Well first I would say listen carefully to what your prospects are telling you. Take notes. That's big. And when you do that, refer back to them frequently. This is a good practice regardless of whether or not they're telling you the truth. I mean, it's just good business that when you're talking to somebody and they're saying something, the better notes you can take, the more you have to refer back to. “Okay, so on Tuesday you told me this, right?” So start with that listening carefully, taking notes that you can then refer back to. Second thing is to remind prospects of what they have said or promised to you in the past, and then you can ask them if something's changed. “Hey on Tuesday you said that you'd have a decision by Friday. Are we still good with that? You know, has something changed with that?”  If something has changed and if they're changing what they originally said, then your next step is to get agreement on what the next situation will be. “Okay. Yeah. Well I had a bunch of things come up, not going to be able to do it Friday, but I should be good by Wednesday of next week.” Okay, and you're taking those notes. Should it be good by Wednesday of next week. “What time would be good to get together and try to firm everything up?” and just try to pin it down.  So, we want to keep track of all that. So, we're listening, we’re reminding prospects of what they've said. We're keeping track of it. And third, don't take it personally. Recognize that many people don't even realize that they're not telling the truth. They may plan on calling you back when they say it, but they don't. They may plan on having a decision by Friday and then they don't. When they do this; keep in mind, it is not about you. You are not to blame. It is about them. It's about their inability to do what they said they're going to do. If you keep track of this stuff, you can then eventually start to spot the real liars and you can choose not to pursue them.

Chris:                     Well put sir, very well put. Okay, let's talk about what's coming up in our next podcast.

David:                   Okay, Chris, in our next podcast we'll talk about helping prospects to make a decision.

Chris:                     Excellent. And keep in mind if you're interested as a listener and finding out how David and his team can help you in your business and sales and marketing, go to and sign up for a meeting with one of the team over at thank you very much, David. We will see you on the next podcast.

David:                   Okay, thanks Chris.

If you're tired of flat or declining sales and losing business to your competitors, be sure to check out my latest web presentation entitled Programming Clients to Choose You. Who are your very best prospects currently programmed to buy from? Is it you or someone else? If you want it to be, you, visit and register for the free presentation now. That's

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