StoryTime: When to Walk Away

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of an unexpected way to recover lost trust. Today’s anecdote zeroes in on the importance of personal integrity.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our upcoming book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 31 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on dealing with untrustworthy people. It vividly demonstrates the value of being willing to walk away from a deal any time, and the paradoxical outcome that often follows.

From the Front Lines: Walking Away from the Table

Anthony Iannarino, President and CEO of SOLUTIONS Staffing in Columbus, Ohio, tells about facing an accusation from a client.

“After going through two long Request for Proposal processes, I was finally presenting to the 14-person buying team for a dream client. One panel member I knew to be hostile asked a critical question. I knew he wouldn’t like my answer, but I was truthful. He voted No—but I still won the job.

“At the contract signing, the ‘No Vote’ person read the contract and said: ‘I see here you have failed to meet the commitment you made to us in your presentation.’

“I replied: ‘I am sorry for any confusion, but I was very clear that I couldn’t provide that service. I told you that doing so would destroy our ability to provide you with the whole package we proposed, including the price.’

“The No Vote said: ‘You lied. You would have said anything in there just to get our business.’

“I got up and said: ‘Then I am afraid I can’t sign this contract. If you believe I lied to get your business, then I cannot take your business. I have never lied to get any business.’ And I got up to walk out.

“At this point the main buyer intervened. He contradicted the ‘No Vote’ and upheld my account of the presentation. The contract was signed.”

 It was Anthony’s willingness to put integrity ahead of the sale that, paradoxically, made the sale.

—S. Anthony Iannarino (President and Chief Sales Officer, SOLUTIONS Staffing)

Are you, like Anthony, willing to walk the talk—even if it means walking out the door?


Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or his blog.

Read more stories about trust: