3 Times When It’s OK to Lie To a Customer


There are estimates that the average person tells 1.65 lies a day, and that figure is based on answers given by people themselves, so they’re probably lying and the number is actually a lot higher. While the public’s perception of most salespeople is that they are dishonest and succeed only by lying, the reality is that the vast majority of salespeople don’t lie to their customers to make a sale.

Most salespeople actually have to spend a significant amount of time with a customer explaining away whatever promotion management and marketing has come up with that month, which can include gimmicks that are often not what they seem. But is it ever acceptable for a salesperson to lie to a costumer? We’ve come up with 3 situations where it is:

1) When you’re just being polite – There are times when you will need to tell a white lie in order to be polite. “Sure, I don’t mind coming in on my day off to meet with you,” or “We’ve worked with plenty of people in your situation before, and are happy to accommodate your exceptional situation.” Even if you want to admit to your customer that they have been incredibly difficult to deal with, or that they have wasted a significant amount of you and your company’s time and resources, being polite and professional always takes precedence, even if you have to smile and lie through your teeth.

2) When the question is subjective – Sometimes customers put salespeople in an awkward position by asking for an opinion on something. “Does this car look good in black?” or “Do I look skinny in this suit?” While a salesperson might hate the car, or disagree that the suit makes you look skinny, it becomes a question of earning a living by modifying an opinion, or telling the harsh truth. Keep in mind that this is different than an objective question such as “How much does this car cost?” or “What is the thread count on this suit?” both of which require honest answers. But on a subjective question, a salesperson is allowed to lie.

3) When the customer is continuously lying to you – While someone who has never worked in sales would never understand or believe it, customers lie to salespeople on a regular basis. In fact, it’s so prevalent that there is a even a popular phrase among salespeople; “Buyers are liars!” Some customers treat salespeople with such disdain and disrespect that they make it impossible to conduct business honestly and ethically. For example, a customer who lies about their financial situation to get a lower price and then expects that same price even when their lies have been revealed, or a customer who promises to come back and makes an appointment on a salesperson’s day off and then never shows up. If a customer is prepared to be dishonest and disrespectful to a salesperson, they should not expect the salesperson to treat them otherwise.

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