Can You Be Too Honest to Sell?

I recently read that Abraham Lincoln co-owned a general store for a short period of time and that his store failed because he “wasn’t a very good salesperson”;  he was “frequently a little too honest about his products…”

I began thinking again about the qualities of a good salesperson, the relationship between honesty and successful selling, and why that story might be of interest to so many professionals.

Almost everyone in the world of work is a salesperson. Whether we are business owners, work for a corporation, or bring our talents to other professional areas, we are all involved (directly or indirectly) in selling ideas, products, or services.

Only the naïve believe that success in business is always accompanied by strict honesty at all times, but the old adage “honesty is the best policy” is usually a wise goal. We cannot be all things to all people and cannot be all things for all clients and prospects. We can certainly try our best, and if we cannot deliver, we can offer to clients and prospects alternative sources to find solutions.

Of course, some who are dedicated to enhancing/maintaining their professional image have been known to bend the truth quite a bit and often make a lot of money doing so. Many years ago, the adult grandson of a restaurant manager told me a true story that I have never forgotten. The restaurant was part of one of the biggest and most successful hotels located in the Catskill Mountains during the 1950’s. One night, when the restaurant was filled to capacity, a diner who was seated with a large group of people started screaming, because she found an enormous cockroach in her food. The manager rushed over to the table, saw the cockroach, and knew that the restaurant could now lose not only these customers, but the ones seated at the surrounding tables. With a grand gesture, he immediately grabbed a spoon, removed the cockroach from the woman’s plate, and popped the insect into his own mouth, chewing and swallowing with delight. Smiling broadly, he loudly proclaimed, “That was no cockroach, Madam. That was our most exotic mushroom, a true delicacy imported from Asia!”

How far would you go, to salvage your professional image and keep your sales moving forward?

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