Totally Truthful Salespeople

by Jacques Werth

I have been in sales, sales management, and sales training since 1955.  From the beginning, I observed how top sales producers actually sell, intent on becoming one of them.  In 1961, I started to manage a sales force.

The first thing I noticed in my new job was that our salespeople all had an underlying sense of insecurity about selling and being believed.

Lou bragged about how his magic words and wise appearance closed his last sale, even though his sales were infrequent.

Steve kept revising his sales pitch, sure that all he needed was the right words to convince his prospects to buy.

Art was good looking, charming, and had a great sense of humor.  His lynchpin was rapport.

Bill knew far more about the services we sold than anyone, and he was sure that his expertise would close the sales.

They all constantly tried to come up with the best way to convince prospects of the benefits of our services.  However, most of them were barely making a living.

That was my first shot at managing salespeople and I didn’t know how to get through to any of them.  Then, one day, Wilbur joined our sales force.  He was quiet, self-assured, and a very good listener.  He reminded me of some of the top sales producers I had observed before I got into management.  In his first month with our company he became the top sales producer and his sales production kept improving.

When the other salespeople asked Wilbur how he did it, he said, “I just tell my prospects the truth about everything, the good and the bad.”  However, the other salespeople continued to sell the way they always did.

At that point, Wilbur’s sales accounted for almost 40% of our total sales volume and I was determined to find another Wilbur.  So, I began recruiting and interviewing salespeople, but I didn’t hire anyone until Stan showed up.

Stan didn’t seem to be like Wilbur in any obvious way.  He was friendly, energetic, and gregarious.  However, like Wilbur, he was a stickler for telling the whole truth.  After several months, Stan’s production was getting close to Wilbur’s and the less successful salespeople wanted to know how he did it.

Stan may have had a better understanding of why his sales process worked so well.  He told the other salespeople that he always told his prospects about the benefits and the detriments of our services, including everything that could go wrong.  He also explained how we guaranteed our services, but if service was required, it would not be a pleasant experience until everything was fixed.  However, the poor performing salespeople did not believe Stan either.

By the following year our company’s sales volume had almost doubled, most of the original salespeople were gone, and I was still recruiting salespeople like Stan and Wilbur.  That is how our company became one of the largest in the industry.

The lesson in this story is that you can make a lot more sales by telling the whole truth, and not just the parts that you think will help you persuade your prospects to buy.

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