Lying to Get the Sale

Suzanne Lowe, at The Expertise Marketplace, has a provocative post titled I Told the Truth—and Got Hired Anyway.

Briefly, she faced two sales situations in which she knew she’d be asked the inevitable question: what experience do you have working in our business?

The truthful answer boiled down to, “none at all.”  Since we all know this is the “wrong” answer, it took a certain amount of courage for Suzanne to speak the truth, and even more courage to then avoid rushing into the silence to list the dozens of reasons why she was nonetheless the best for the job, etc.

The punch line in Suzanne’s posting was, of course, that she got the job. And she asked her readers to help explain why.

Now, what I find curious is not the fact that she got the job—but her readers’ explanations for it.

To me, the reason she got the job seemed transparently clear, almost self-evident.  She got the job because she immediately proved she was honest, transparent, truthful—and those personal characteristics in this case outweighed the importance of industry experience—as they frequently, though not always, do.

Yet to my surprise other commenters had different explanations.  Their explanations included:

• Maybe the client saw the greater relevance of her experience in other industries
• This may be the rare client who is not risk-averse
• Maybe lack of industry knowledge meant no bias, hence an open mind—ignorance here is a plus
• Maybe her integrity helped feed a broader sense of chemistry about her

My first reaction to these other reasons (I’m trying to be honest here), was one of disbelief.   It’s always shocking to me when other people don’t see things precisely the way I do.  ("How could these people not see"…."Why don’t they understand…"). 

I mean, don’t you know who I think I am?

Yet, I know some of these commenters. They are bright, experienced, knowledgeable people.

Unfortunately, this means I am denied access to my preferred, first-blush, gut-instinct explanation for why they might disagree with me, namely they’re ignorant fools. (“Damn; I have to take these opinions seriously.”)

So, I have two questions for this audience.

1. What do you make of Suzanne’s tale; why do you think her clients in each case bought her services despite her lack of industry credentials?

2. What do you make of my being shocked at the other answers? What’s your first reaction when you find out someone has a different reaction to something you felt was obvious? And what do you do about it?

9 replies
  1. Brooks C. Sackett
    Brooks C. Sackett says:


    Dear Charlie,
        You "teach" trust in all its dynamic forms and you have your own beliefs and feelings about its value. Suzanne was honest, transparent, truthful and that sparked within the clients who hired her expanded imaginations about her value, a sense of comfort without less risk, the excitement of her broader and bias-free take on their problems, and the sweet chemistry that occcurs when someone really does tell us the truth.

         Thank you,


  2. Philip J. McGee
    Philip J. McGee says:

    I believe they liked her and that’s why she got the job.  As a young salesman I often had an easy time with older people because I asked them for their help and used my inexperience as an asset.  They love helping me and usually bought.

    I am not at all shocked by the other responses.  Most people make things much more complex than they are.  When people have different reactions from mine I immediately question mine, not wanting to appear stupid; but I usually stay with mine simply because it works better for me and also because I am by nature a contrarian.    

  3. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Hi, Charlie. Thanks for the provocative post.

    1. … why do you think her clients in each case bought her services despite her lack of industry credentials?

    (a) I think there’s an element called "connection"  here, what other(s) pointed to as "chemistry " – "love at first sight" ( but NOT due to the "packaging" but to the integrity of her heart/soul) and the emotion (love) is most often the catalyst that brings one to "buy in", not "logic"; (b) perhaps clients are looking for someone who can approach things with a "beginner’s mind" , as a "curious outsider" and she communicated this  dynamic; (c) perhaps she created a sense of trust and "safety" in which to wrap the interaction…all of which is to say, for me, it’s about being in integrity and authenticity.

    2. What do you make of my being shocked at the other answers? 

    As for you and others’ being schocked, and I don’t know you or those others, Charlie,  but what often arises with such reactivity is the mantra, "Why aren’t others like me?" 
    Why don’t others think like me? What’s wrong with "them"?"

    In addition, how do I feel when others think differently, perhaps correctly, or perhaps come from another perspective that (internally and unconsciously,) makes me feel unseen, small, invisible, "bad" or "wrong."

    If my identity is largely a function of  "my mind" (i.e., my "take", my world view, my assumptions, expectations, interpretations, i.e., my "computer board" (brain) with all its nodes and diads-thoughts, beliefs, images…etc – – and I come up against  another perspective that doesn’t "compute" with the nodes on my motherboard, then a common reactivity is that likened to a traumatic "startle response" wherein I go into a fight, flight or freeze mode which plays out, in behavioral format, as becoming defensive, argumentative, resistant, judgmental, dismissive, shocked, quiet, angry, etc. all because I perceive "different from me" as a threat in some way, shape or form to "who I am", to my sense of my self.  Scary and threatening. So, I become reactive. I need to be right (read: safe, and secure, mentally, emotionally,…)

    Another person  perhaps is not driven by their "motherboard" but more by their internal state, their inner core and wisdom self, their Essential self that is not defensive, and thus does not become reactive to "different." Rather, they become more curious, open, inquisitive…and allowing for difference…to learn, explore, inquire just to see what’s what…no need to be "right."

    Rumi said, "Out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there."

    Reactivity is struggling and battling in the "right-wrong doing" place of ego, personality, mind, and a zero-sum game mentality…

    Beyond that place, is the place of openness, where ego does not rule, but all have  a place at the table (round, not square or rectangular…for a reason), with the intentionality of interacting from a place of curiosity, with a "beginner’s mind" and with a notion of win-win being the mantra that drives the interactivity.


  4. Ian Welsh
    Ian Welsh says:

    Not sure why she got it.  My experience hasn’t always been that being too truthful is always best, sadly.  Depends on who you’re dealing with.

    With respect to the second question — when others have a different explanation than me my reaction depends on how much I know aobut something.  If it’s a question I think I know a lot about my first reaction may be very dismissive.  If it’s a field I don’t know much about I’m more open.  But I try and stay open to alternative explanations and also remind myself that it can be more than one thing (ie. there can be more than one valid explanation.  Someone else being right does not always mean me being wrong.)

    And if their explanation is right and mine wrong, or at least not as good, well, I try to learn from it.  I fear greatly becoming too rigid in what I know and losing the ability to learn from others.

  5. Barbara Garabedian
    Barbara Garabedian says:

    Charlie: I’m with you on this, so I’m no help at all. To me it was obvious why she got the work… I’m not shocked that some people didn’t "get it". You "got it" because you  believe in this approach and conduct your business in the same manner; this is the bible you preach from.  There are a lot of consultants/ business folks out there that just don’t think or work thaat way. For some that’s because that’s not the business model that they learned;  for some maybe they’re just too insecure in their ability or maybe – some are just too afraid of losing the business.  Whatever the reason, I’m sure many are very intelligent people and/or excellent SMEs. However this particular situation has nothing to do w/ "book smarts". This is more about one’s emotional intelligence – being comfortable enough in one’s own skin & ability to be willing to potentially loose some work by admitting to a prospect that you’re not 100% textook perfect!!  Oh my gosh…be still my heart!!!!

    Now as to the 2nd question… whoops, I think I just answered it. 

  6. Fat_Peter
    Fat_Peter says:

    You’re confusing intelligence and foolishness. People can be very intellingent and complete idiots at the same time. It’s a bit like confusing height and hair colour, "He can’t be short he has brown hair". Thanks

  7. Suzanne Lowe
    Suzanne Lowe says:

    It’s been a blast watching other people suggest reasons about why I got the two assignments.   The truth is (here I go again) that we could wonder forever, even me, and still only shed light on partial reasons. 

    One interesting nugget:  in both cases, I had a group of people "evaluating" my truth-telling.  I’ll bet the individuals who brought me in had some stake in being validated, so there was an element of colleagues trusting THEIR  judgement.   

    A second thought that may or may not have influenced my clients’ hiring decisions (beyond trust that is):   I deliberately tried to portray that I love doing the work that I do (and it’s true).  It’s fun, I’m never bored, and I make lasting friends.  I think this is very appealing to people.  "OMG, she’s having FUN!  Maybe we can too!"

  8. Andrea Howe
    Andrea Howe says:

    This post clearly sparked some commentary!

    I agree with you on the "why’d she get the job" question.  And I’m not really surprised by the reasons others listed on Suzanne’s blog.  As you and I wrote in our "Truth, Lies, and Unicorns" article, as human beings we tend to grossly overestimate the penalties for truth-telling (cost of disapproval, etc.) while grossly underestimating the benefit of truth-telling (good will, credibility, etc.).  Sometimes it’s just plain counterintuitive to tell the truth.  It’s also counterintuitive not to use brute force to make a golf ball sail onto the green from the firs tees.  Or so I’m told by those who golf …


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