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.

Totally Truthful Salespeople

5 thoughts on “Totally Truthful Salespeople

  1. Telling people the truth about your product or service, including the detriments, not only gives you credibility, but it also makes it easier for prospects to buy…when it is indeed the right time for them to do so.

    I first learned of this from Jacques Werth and High Probability Selling.

    And I’m thankful.

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  2. ..Either BO or MR will be elected in November and neither tell the whole truth. I’m not cynical and maybe in a foolhardy way believe a tell-the-whole-truth candidate would clear the air and win by a landslide never seen in our country. OK – I’m off track.

    It took me a few years to understand what you’re saying as I was going into all these books and company training full of common place cliches and sales tactics intended for use in getting people to do what you wanted. HPS changed my thinking and gave me confidence and self respect.

    So obviously I agree with you, Jacques. Be that person who has dignity and treats people with respect. This is especially importand in network marketing not only for a product sale but especially for recruiting. This kind of business already has too much of a tarnished reputation for good reasons, mostly.

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  3. I hired my first salesman in 1984. I owned the company, and I knew far more about what we did than anyone, but within a few months, Simon, the new salesman was selling far more than me or anyone else.

    I asked him to teach me how to sell, and he agreed to do so. He pointed me to all the sales books, tapes, etc. I read and listened to everything. He even had the Canon copier course for their sales people. We practiced role-playing. The usual stuff.

    After going on several sales calls with Simon, I noticed that he didn’t do most of the stuff in those books. He seemed to be trying to “un-sell” the prospects. He told them everything that could possibly go wrong. He even thought up stuff that I hadn’t dreamed could go wrong. The conversations usually sounded like the client trying to convince Simon that this was a good deal, rather than the other way around.

    I didn’t really understand what Simon had been doing until I read Jacques’ book a few years ago. Simon was doing High Probability Selling. He told the clients everything that could go wrong, and they told him how it could go right. The only objections that usually came up were those raised by Simon, and the clients often handled them to their satisfaction.

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  4. Mike Kossiski says:

    Recently, I had a customer tell me I was either the dumbest salesperson ever or the smartest because I told him he was better off using another companies product versus mine.

    My response was , who do you call first?

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  5. Vic Osborne says:

    I have always done this because I am not that outgoing, don’t know any other way to sell other than truthfully and sincerely, and have had pretty good success in building territories I have been given responsibility for in the past. At the time, ten years ago, I was striving to be the outgoing, hyper-active, stereotypical salesperson that the majority of us have in mind when we hear the words “salesman/women”. What a relief it was to hear Jacques say that I was unknowingly doing the majority of things that top performing sales reps do. Thanks for keeping from continuing down the wrong path Jacques.

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