The Cost of the Trust Gap—On Seth Godin's Why Lie?

The Cost of the Trust Gap—On Seth Godin's Why Lie?In Why Lie?, Seth Godin points out that prospects of (B2B) salespeople often lie because they do not want their decisions to be questioned by salespeople: “… when we announce that we’ve made the decision to hire someone else, or when we tell the pitching entrepreneur we don’t like her business model, or when we clearly articulate why we’re not going to do business, the salesperson responds by questioning the judgment of the prospect.”

Great insight, but it pre-supposes a lack of trust that is totally outdated and unnecessary. Let’s review how this comes about and how to disrupt the whole cycle.

Legacy Model: Us v. Them

The traditional sales model is company-focused. It calls for identifying decision makers, and presenting product/service features and benefits until the salesperson “closes” a deal. This model creates antagonism between salespeople and their prospects: the salesperson is focused on selling while the prospect is trying to figure out what s/he may need. In large B2B propositions (complex sales), the prospect is often unaccustomed to assessing the kind of deal at hand, so s/he faces extensive uncertainty. Although the salesperson may be a source of useful information, the parties operate at cross purposes because the salesperson knows s/he wants the deal, and the prospect is unsure. Worse, since the purchase is often large, the prospect’s job is often on the line if the decision proves unsound.

New Model: Collaborative Due Diligence and Design*

This model is client-focused. The salesperson does not assume that s/he should do a deal with the prospect and openly states this at the outset of the conversation. S/He realizes that deals will be more profitable and less expensive to deliver when the fit is right, so it is to his/her advantage to assess what makes the client tick and exit as quickly as possible when the fit is wrong. This aligns salesperson and prospect. By the way, when the salesperson is engaged in consistent, focused social business interactions, s/he will have a robust pipeline of well qualified leads.

Therefore, the salesperson guides the prospect through a rigorous due diligence process, which is a key part of the former’s value proposition. Both are trying to identify deal-breakers, so they can minimize wasted time. The due diligence process produces extensive, relevant information that the prospect will find immensely valuable in solving the problem or realizing the opportunity. If the salesperson has an appropriate market focus, due diligence learnings will be very useful to him/her as well because it will lead to understanding other prospects in similar situations.

Back to Lying

The new model enables the salesperson and prospect team to develop a rare degree of mutual trust, which completely removes the need for lying (and often leads to more referrals whether they do a deal or not). Since both parties work toward the same goal, they welcome the chance to reject a bad deal based on sound rationale. The salesperson respects the prospect’s point of view and vice versa.

Seth kind of backs into this: “Given what they know and what they believe, the prospect is making exactly the right decision.”

By the way, the best salespeople completely account for personal and political facets of the deal, so these are on the table. In addition, some of the salesperson’s key criteria can be cultural fit, integrity, etc. In the end, prospects care more about how the deal improves their position than product/service features. When the salesperson explicitly incorporates these factors into the conversation, s/he dramatically accelerates time to trust and “relevance.”

What is your experience with salespeople or prospects lying to you?

* Disclosure: this is the model that CSRA uses, and we’re really excited about it, but we’re factoring out our excitement in this post, to the point humanly possible.

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