Archive for April, 2009


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When Clients Lie – Don’t be Led Astray

We’ve all heard, “the check’s in the mail.” The majority of the time it is. But sometimes it’s a well intentioned fabrication. Well, really, it’s a lie. A sad but painful experience when you are a small business owner. Anger and frustration won’t help. Most of the time, the customer really wants and intends to do the right thing. Generally they will pay, if you help them. Thankfully, most customer lies can be readily detected, giving you a chance to avoid over confidence, recover, and not get blind-sighted.  Let’s face it.  Customers lie. Clients lie.  They are people. So here’s how you can stop complaining and start taking action.

Popular client lies and how to handle them.

When you hear these words, warning bells should ring. Kick your brain into overdrive and ask the questions needed to find what’s really true. More importantly, don’t count on what the customer says and make decisions (and hopes) based on it.

Your customer may be lying when he says:

The check is in the mail” – Nearly all customers intend to pay, but when you hear this, it’s time to get details. Say, “Maybe our mail is slow here, what day did you mail it?”, “If I don’t see it by Thursday, I’ll follow up, okay?”

Don’t worry about the money” – Every time I have heard this, the price and payment delay comes back later as a big issue. Don’t take these words at face value. Say, “Thanks, but even my clients with lots of money appreciate the choices we give them in our range of products and pricing. So let’s discuss those choices now so you have control.”

I trust you” – The customer may be thinking, “you know what I want and you can give it to me.” If your product saves money or makes money, the customer is thinking, “you seem honorable, you’ll make me money no matter how bad the market is,” or “you saved Joe $10,000 so you can save me “$12,000 and I won’t have to put in any effort because I trust you.” With this kind of client, you must be totally clear up front. Even going as far as a Client Responsibilities Agreement the two of you can sign. These are the kind of people that don’t show up for meetings, don’t deliver their parts and paperwork on time, and don’t do what you tell them to do to reap the savings. Yet they want the results with no effort. When you hear those words, stop them in their tracks. Say, “This is a partnership and you won’t get the results if you don’t do a), b), and c) in a timely and committed manner.”

I’ll think about it” – So you hear a real positive here. But the customer is most likely thinking of the 15 things that they need to get done today and really want to get you off the phone or out the door. Ask them, “Are you just trying to politely get me out the door or is there some specific aspect that needs to be analyzed before we go ahead?” Sound too direct? It can be softened with a smile or a brief story, such as “Most of my clients are busy like you and we don’t have time to waste. Tell me what questions you need to think about so you don’t waste time later.”

Let me talk to my wife/partner/father/brother-in-law” – Have you ever bought something you wish you hadn’t? What did you learn? A common protection that people give themselves is time to have second thoughts. They enlist someone else to help talk through, and sometimes, out of buying. Even though the prospect sounds like they are ready to sign on the dotted line and write a check, it’s probably not going to happen. The other person has not heard the details of either the value or the problem solution your product offers. Your only recourse is to try to get that other decision maker into the value conversation. Say, “There will probably be questions your wife will ask that you may not be able to answer. How about the three of us get together on Tuesday at 3:00 so you won’t be put in a position of not knowing the answer?” In some cases, it may be better to say up front, “Usually these kinds of decisions are made with spouses, it’s better not to meet until you both can be there.” At least if the person responds that they have total decision authority and the spouse is not needed, they will try to follow through lest they appear to have lied.

I’ll let you know” – If they say this, without a date or a time or a commitment to write the check, chances are it’s a stall tactic. You need to come back with a date and time to follow up with them. Another question to ask is, “you’re a busy person and chances are there are other decisions you also need to make this week. What factors can we clear up right now so you can get this decision off your plate?”

So, human nature is that people want to hold onto their money, now more than ever. Don’t get mad, get skills!

Some more articles on this subject if you feel you’ve been unusually hit by customer lies recently:

How to Tell if Your Customer is Lying

Your Customer is Lying, Did You Catch it?

The Top 10 Lies Customers Tell Sales Reps

Give me some feedback. What customer lies do you hear that give you warning bells?

Now stop reading about customer lies and start doing! Let’s create your personal profit strategies for growing profit. Call small business profitability coach Merra Lee Moffitt, CFP®. She can be reached at, 888-920-2030 or by email at

“Seek new clients, seize better income, capture more profit”