You want your customers to lie to you – really?

DishonesrtHonesty is the best policy, so the saying goes. Indeed, research shows that businesses which are open and transparent are valued more highly than those which fib. And if your company is exposed as a liar, well, you can say goodbye to your bonus. However, What about your customers? Surely you want them to be honest with you too? After all, if they lie to you how can you deliver exactly what they want and thereby get rated highly?

Logically, if your customers tell you fibs you can’t possibly provide what they really want, making it almost impossible to get high levels of customer satisfaction. But, as always in the world of selling, logic isn’t always right. The kind of customers you really want are liars.

Recent research (PDF) shows that liars have to spend a great deal of mental effort when telling their tall tales. Fibbing is difficult to do. As a result the “executive function” of the brain gets bogged down in all the details of constructing the lie and sticking to it. That means attention is taken away from other mental activities – in particular the conversation coming from the sales person. In other words, liars will be less likely to be able to pay attention to what you are saying and even if they can manage to attend to you, they won’t find it easy to process what they hear. In other words, they ignore you.

What this means is they are much more surprised by the outcome than people telling the truth to you. And when you are more surprised by something you have a much more significant response to it.

So, customers who lie tend to be much more positive about your company than the truth-tellers.  It means you can generate more positive comments, Tweets or Facebook shares from the people who have fibbed to you than those who told you the truth. The issue to consider, therefore, is whether you should go out of your way to track down liars as customers.

The chances are this will take you more effort than necessary. When you start committing a great deal of mental effort to such an activity, guess what? Your brain starts working like that of a liar – you cannot concentrate on the sales conversation you are having with your customers because of the additional mental effort you have to perform. And that is never a good idea. After all, would I lie to you?

So, what should you do? Tell the truth and always believe your customers are also doing so. If they lie, they will be positively surprised by the outcome which is simply a bonus for you. But customers who tell the truth to you will reduce the mental effort on both sides, meaning getting the sale in the first place is much easier.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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