Tactical Questioning

Prospects Often Lie To Be Polite. Ask Incisive Questions & Advance the Deal

Prospects Often Lie To Be Polite. Ask Incisive Questions & Advance the Deal

Sales prospects often lie not to be mean, but to be polite. Buyer politeness is good only to a point. To maximize your sales performance, ask incisive questions.

Make it safe for the prospect to be cruel.

Excerpted from my book, A Sale Is A Love Affair – Seduce, Engage & Win Customers’ Hearts.


Would I Lie To You?

Some salespeople dislike prospects who are a bit too tough and a bit too direct. Some even avoid them.

This is unwise.

Far worse than the straight-talking tough guy is the nice guy… the prospect who politely lies.

But wait! We shouldn’t demonize these prospects. They often have kind reasons.

When some prospects lie, they’re not necessarily trying to be dishonest. Lying often says less about their ethics and more about their sensitivity. They’re simply trying to be nice.


They’re putting “nice” before “straight-talk.”

As silly as this may sound, these types of prospects don’t want to hurt your feelings. So they’d rather be evasive… and polite.

Hitch, The Love Doctor sets the record straight.

In the film, Hitch is a dating coach in New York, played by actor Will Smith. His client, Albert, is pathetic at dating, but he has somehow captured the attention of the lovely Allegra, who isn’t moving quickly with Albert, but she is moving forward, nonetheless. Yet Albert tells Hitch that Allegra was a bit evasive on their first date. He thinks she lied.

“Of course she’s going to lie to you!” Hitch shrieks. “She’s a nice person!”

Dates often lie to be nice. So do customers.

Don’t be offended by a prospect’s ethics in these situations. Be grateful for their sensitivity. But sensitivity is not what we should be seeking. We should be seeking reality.

Cruel, hard reality is more valuable than sweet, unattainable dreams.

Be acutely aware of the paradox: cruelty is usually kinder. In the lyrics of Nick Lowe, Cruel to be kind means that I love you. And if a sale is a love affair, it’s gotta’ work both ways, baby.

You don’t want your prospects to be nice to you if nice means giving you false expectations… if nice means sucking the life out of your time management and resource allocation.


Reality is king. Straight talk is queen. Incisive questions are gold.

If a prospect cruelly tells you there isn’t a chance in hell that you’ll get her business, guess what! You can move on. You can spend your time and resources on more prospecting or developing the higher probability deals in your pipeline. (Although you shouldn’t end it there; there are other tactical questions you need to ask.)

If a prospect is a bit tough yet says there is a chance, albeit a tiny one, then you can explore what stands in her way… and, thus, what stands in your way.

You can get to the heart of sales engagement with the first incisive question: “What are your biggest hurdles in moving forward?”

And so it is when you sense the buyer might be be sugar-coating reality, when you feel she isn’t being, yep, cruel enough. You can ask the same incisive question, perhaps with a twist.

“Do you see any hurdles in making something like this happen? What might they be?”

If the prospect is a bit hesitant, you can add, “It really would be helpful for both of us, I believe.”

The best salespeople are courteous, of course, but they’re not pushovers. They seek clarity. They’re not so polite that they don’t explore.

When done professionally and in a consultative tone, incisive questions can uncover lies or, let’s call them, hidden objections. It’s better to get to the heart of hidden objections when you’re face-to-face than it is to leave the meeting with false expectations and then, later, try to explore by the elusive phone call or the hopeless email.

So, appreciate the sensitivity of polite prospects. Then, in a professional and consultative tone, take the responsibility to explore by prompting for concerns.

This can re-focus deals that otherwise would not happen. In those cases that it doesn’t, then this will certainly help you manage your own expectations and improve your sales productivity.

Why would I lie to you? 🙂

# # #

I help companies sell more effectively.

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Photo by Hamza Butt