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Keith Shetterly

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"Negotiation is the art of reaching agreement by trust while lying."  -- Keith Shetterly, 2011

Wow!  My friends have pointed out that I needed another article for "trust-eroding" words and phrases--spoken or written--that can kill sales, so here comes Part 2 of what is now a series.  What do I mean by "trust-eroding"?  Well, that's best explained by going right to the first example:


Honestly.  You're eroding trust directly with the use of this word--because when you reach a point in a conversation where you say, "Well, honestly, . . .", does that mean to the customer that you were lying the entire time before you said that phrase?  YES.  My opening quote is true of negotiation, in that the customer knows things like the dark history of their trade and/or their credit score that can kill a deal, while the dealer knows the invoice, holdback, step money, bonus motivations, etc. that can make a deal happen.  And nobody wants to reveal any of that right out at the front.  It's hard enough to establish trust in any negotiation because of that situation, so you don't need to call yourself out in some mistrustful way while you are negotiating!  Using "honestly" puts you backwards immediately and erodes trust.


The Fix: Instead of saying "Well, honestly, . . . ", say "Let me share something more with you . . . ".  The first says you're a liar, the second says to the customer that they've successfully negotiated and corned you into revealing more information--and it's usually a very good idea to stroke the customer's ego during a sale.  So, "Let me share something more with you . . . " is now your trust mantra!  And, as well, never, ever, use the next phrase . . .


To Tell You The Truth.  This sounds a lot like "honestly", and there is certainly that full aspect for this phrase, so if necessary please read the previous item on "honestly" again.  However, there's even more for this phrase:  It's often mis-applied as a bonding-with-the-customer moment, as in "I'm breaking a rule here to reveal this . . .", but "To tell you the truth" actually says to the customer that, not only have you perhaps been lying up to this point, but that you also might lie again in the future!  You'd have to beat this phrase to death as a preface to every statement you make in order to theoretically offset that, but that repetition in reality would just erode trust even further.  Avoid "to tell you the truth", even as a preface phrase like "To tell you the truth, I don't know."  Really?  Thank goodness you didn't give another lying answer to the other questions I asked already or as you will to the next ones I'm going to ask!


The Fix:  Use the phrase "Let me tell you one of our secrets . . ." instead.  Again, you're stroking the customer's ego, bonding with them, and telling them (again) that they've cornered you in the negotiations into revealing more information.  And NOT eroding trust!


The Honest Truth Is.  Yep, here's the "Ultimate Trust-Eroding Combo Pack" built on the last two phrases.  Are you saying there is a "dishonest" truth?  And, whatever that is, the customer is now thinking, again, that you're a liar, that you're going to be a liar--and, additionally, that the very next words you are now about to utter after this phrase are most certainly a lie.  "The honest truth is that my sales manager has done as much as he can, and this is the lowest price he can offer."  Sure it is.


The Fix:  Say, instead, in this case "The fact is . . ."--because facts are evidence, and truth is philosophy.  You are telling them a fact they can choose to believe because they know you've worked hard on their behalf with your sales manager.  You've let them know that, right?  You're not using "The honest truth is . . ." because you're shortcutting the sales process, are you?  Exactly.  Use "The fact is . . ." because your work on their behalf is a fact, your sales manager has negotiated fairly, and your dealership does treat its customers the best in the area.  


We Aren't Here to Rip You Off.  Ugh!!  Really?  If you're not here to do that, why did you have to tell me that??  Alert!  Alert!  Trust erosion ahead!  This phrase, and those like it, attract customer suspicion like honey attracts bees. 


The Fix:  Just learn that real trust is built, not on what you aren't, but on what you are--and say instead:  "We are an honest dealership . . .".  Simple and says it all.  And back-able by appropriate additions such "our online reputation with our customers shows", "our fifty years in business means", etc.  Trust is built on positives, not negatives!


Now, hit your sales floors (phone, UPs, Internet, email, etc.) knowing how to get, and keep, trust from your customers with the words you use.  Honestly, they're very important!  :)


by Keith Shetterly,

Copyright 2011,

All Rights Reserved

Bryan Armstrong
Great points. Our choice of verbage is Sooooo important and the underlying perceptions a phrase convey can far out-weigh the words themselves.

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