“This is your captain speaking. Should be a smooth flight today.”
“Our meatloaf is delicious tonight.”
“Have a nice day!”
These are lies, and you know it. Pilots never really know how “smooth” things are going to be and when that “little bump” is going to toss your neighbor's coffee onto your lap. Your waiter has never even tried the meatloaf -- his manager just told him to push it tonight. And no, that cashier doesn’t care if you have a nice day. People have good intentions. But they’re mostly falsehoods.
And we’re no different, right? C’mon, admit it: you lie. So do I. We mean well. But we’re not always honest in the things we say. I see my clients lie every day too. Lying is just part of what you need to do to run a business. They are things that you feel you should be saying. But you don’t really mean it. Don’t agree? Then tell me you haven’t said these things:
1. “I care about you and want you to succeed.” This is usually said to the employee sitting across from your desk in tears because her work has deteriorated due to a recent breakup, a drug problem or an unreliable alarm clock. This is, of course, a lie. The truth is that you’ve got tons of things on your mind, a list of problems a mile long and you don’t really care about the boyfriend that’s causing her all this anguish or her $600 car repair bill. You don’t want to get involved in her personal life. You just want someone that will show up on time, be nice to others, work hard and make you money. If she can do that, she will succeed. If not, then please go away. We care, but there are limits.
2. “Things are great.” No, things are not “great.” They are never “great.” You’ve got 10 customers who owe you money for products shipped months ago. You have employees who called out sick, a supplier who is late on a delivery and a tech guy that was supposed to replace a printer but somehow crashed your server. Oh, and did I mention the giant health insurance bill that landed on your desk and that key sales person just took another job? By the way, your cash took a dip, your competition just won that great new project and three customers called this morning to complain about God knows what. And this is your typical day. Face it: you’re never more than 90 days away from Chapter 11. So things are never “great.” At best, things are OK.
3. “The customer’s always right.” No they're not and we all know that. You’ve been doing this for 20 years and your customer buys your product once a quarter. You say “don’t do it that way” and your customer says “oh, it’ll be fine.” Who do you think is going to be right? Exactly. Customers don’t know what they want. And they think they’re smarter than you are. What happens when the you-know-what hits the fan? You grimace, sigh, struggle to keep your voice professional and then offer the know-it-all-customer a discount/refund/coupon/benefit/apology for something that you know they don’t deserve because they’re not right. You’re right.
4. “Your business is important to me.” That all depends on how much business we’re talking about. Small customers are not as important as big customers and any business owner who tells you otherwise is lying. Of course, smaller sales have a role and help to keep the lights on. But it’s the big ones that put money in the bank. We jump when a customer calls, but we jump, climb, whistle Dixie and then get in the car and drive 50 miles when the big customer calls. We didn’t survive for more than two decades on the $1,000 deals. It’s the $10,000 deals we’re after.
5. “It’s not about the money.” Trust me, it’s always about the money. People also like to say “money’s no object,” but they’re lying. Case in point: I met with a prospective customer, a small manufacturer, whose owner told me he wanted the “best system I can get, because it’s not about the money, it’s about getting the job done right. Spare no cost!” Of course, after I told him how much the best software system would cost (the one he picked himself off the floor), the conversation turned to something that provides “more bang for the buck.” Translation: “it’s about the money -- so give me something cheaper.”
Yeah, we lie. Can we agree about that?