Why Lying to Your Customers is a Bad Idea

by Sean Bryant on May 10, 2017

Common sense isn’t common. One person’s idea of an obvious situation is another person’s unfathomable circumstance. So, while on the face of things, the need for an article explaining why lying to your customers is a bad idea might be ridiculous to you, for others, well—let’s just say some people need to be told.

We’re living in one of the most competitive business climates in history. New ideas and innovations spring forth on a daily basis. More efficient processes supersede winning solutions every day. If you’re stuck selling that newly obsolete method, your first impulse might be to discredit the fresh development with a few well-placed exaggerations in an effort to squeeze the last bit of mileage out of your program.

We are also now living in an age when more information is available to people more quickly than ever before. So, while you might be tempted to lie to discredit your competitor, your customer can find out you’re lying while you’re still sitting there.

While you only get one chance to make a good first impression, every subsequent interaction must support that impression. Lie once and get caught, all the effort you’ve put into maintaining that relationship goes right out of the window. From that moment forward, every word you utter, every gesture you make—all of your actions will be suspect.

Let’s say you’re selling ecommerce software and feed them a bunch of persuasive sales speak. The potential customer then conducts an enterprise ecommerce platform comparison on their own (after buying yours) and learns that your product is flawed, or at least, not exactly what you were feeding them earlier. In so doing, they’re going to discover the alternative solution was superior. If they learn you knew this and sold them yours anyway, you can bet both you and your company will be persona non grata to them and anyone they talk to for years to come.

The first goal of any enterprise should be to develop repeat business. When you’re selling, it’s about more than just the product you’re presenting; it’s about the reputation of your company and all future needs of that customer as they relate to your company.

When the customer learns you’ve lied, you’ll kiss all future business goodbye.

If you’re lucky, it will stop there. Except now, there’s this thing called social media and becoming a social media pariah is easy to do. The moment you walk away from their conference room, everybody in their circle will know you’re a liar. Who will then tell everyone they know, who will then tell everyone they know and eventually, someone will tell you. And yes, it will probably be your boss.

Here’s the thing, if you know your solution is inferior and you’re asked point-blank about it, the smartest thing you can do—as counterintuitive as it might seem— is tell your customer all about it. Then, remind them of all of the benefits of your product as well as the benefits doing business with you specifically—highlighting your honesty. If your solution is a viable one, you might win the business anyway because you were honest with the customer and they know they can count on you if things go sideways.

Even if you don’t get the sale, operating this way, you leave a trail of intact bridges, as opposed to acres of scorched earth. Which brings us to the primary reason why lying to your customers is a bad idea. Rather than the quick hit, business is always about the long game. Your product might be inferior now, but when your company comes up with a more competitive solution you’ll want to find welcoming expressions on customer’s faces when you return.

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Sean Bryant

Sean Bryant created OneSmartDollar.com in 2011 to help pass along his knowledge of finance and economics to others. After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in economics he worked as a construction superintendent before jumping into the world of finance. Sean has worked on the trade desk for a commodities brokerage firm, he was a project manager for an investment research company and was a CDO analyst at a big bank. That being said he brings a good understanding of the finance field to the One Smart Dollar community. When not working Sean and he wife are avid world travelers. He enjoys spending time with his daughter Colette and dog Charlie.

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