“Can I Be Honest With You?”

Dear ToddCohen.com Sales Community-

It’s time for “Todd’s List of Annoying Sales Talk”…or something like that. I actually just invented this today after hearing a speech where the presenter answered every question the same way by starting with “I want to be frank with you” or “I want to be honest here.”  Seriously, folks, how many times have we as sales professionals started to answer a question posed to us by a client with something that sounds like “Let me be honest” or “Can I tell you the truth?”

We all do it, and we are all guilty of using these awful starters when in fact we are not being dishonest or disingenuous at all. The issue with using these type of phrases is that they cast doubt in the client’s mind that you are actually being truthful. The rub here is that we all do this as more of a reflex than anything else! I actually think that using these starters is some sort of infraction of the “Sales Professionals’ Code of Conduct” and should be banned!

So, what can we sales professionals do? Well, a little more diligence about what we say is always a good start. We can make sure that we are listening carefully so that as we answer a question, we start with the answer and not this sort of preamble. It’s fairly easy, and it just takes practice. The next time you find yourself saying to a client  “I want to be honest with you,” STOP, look at your client, and own the fact that you started this way. ‘Fess up, have a laugh with your client. You will earn more respect if you don’t sound like everyone else and you are aware of your words!

As always, let me know what you think…and of course be honest with me!

Good Selling!


2 thoughts on ““Can I Be Honest With You?””

  1. I think using the phrase “can I be honest with you” is a habit used to gain time to think of a response. While we are automatically saying “can I be honest with you” which takes no brain processing power (like saying Uhmmm) our brain is thinking …what is my answer. I suggest replacing that phrase “let me be honest” with “let me think about that for a moment.” This gives you the time to think and come up with a good considered answer.

    After all, responding to questions in sales situations is not a game show where you have 15 seconds to answer or you lose your turn. Answering correctly and appearing as a thoughtful person does gets you to the finals.

  2. I agree with Eric. I like the substitution of a negative, harmful behavior/Statement with a positive behavior that increases your image and does allow one to “think about it” or better yet – reflect. We – as sales people – need to be a little more consultative, which means; less reacting, more reflecting, less spray and pray and more maintaining control by asking questions and facilitating the discussion. Let me think about also means “I don’t have all the answers – all the time.”

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