Advice: "My sales manager wants me to tell a lie to close a deal, what should I do?"

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Dear Quota Team, 

I have a problem. I can’t say which industry I work in because I’m worried that it might make my identity too obvious, since it’s not that big of an industry. But I am a third-year rep who is responsible for sourcing and closing new business in a fairly niche sector. 

I’ve been working on a good-sized account for a few months now, and if it closes, it will practically make my next two quarters. My sales manager has been closely involved, but I’ve been the one dealing with the prospect, and have done a good job of building trust with them. 

We sent over the contract for the prospect to review, and one of the big sticking points was the cancellation policy. It’s a five-year contract, and the prospect wants to make sure they have an out in case something goes wrong in the future. Without getting too specific, he asked about a very specific scenario, and whether that scenario would allow him to get out of the agreement (if it were to happen.) 

I had to search for the answer myself, and technically (legally) the answer is no. But my sales manager, who helped me look into this, said to tell the prospect that yes, they would be able to terminate the contract if this were to happen. When I pushed back, my manager said that we need to do whatever it takes to close new business, and that this scenario is so unlikely to actually happen that there’s virtually no risk of ever having to worry about it.

I like this prospect, and I feel guilty about misleading them. On the flip side, my sales manager is right, and that this scenario that the prospect is asking about has like a one out of a thousand chance of actually happening. What should I do here? Lie and close the deal or tell the truth and risk getting on my sales manager’s bad side. I don’t believe the prospect will sign if they can’t get out of the contract for their hypothetical stated reason. 

Conflicted    Location withheld 

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Dear Conflicted,

The way we see it, the answer is pretty simple. You were concerned enough about the situation to write in and ask for advice, which means you’re feeling ethically conflicted about what to do. 

This indicates that if you go ahead and lie to the prospect, then it’s something that’s likely to stay on your conscience for a long time. It’s a lot easier to avoid compromising our values than it is to try to absolve or rationalize our decisions later on. 

Putting aside the fact that lying to people is almost always wrong, you should think about how going against your gut feeling for a little bit (and in the big scheme of things, it is a little bit) of money will affect you in the long run. 

So do your future self a favor and don’t lie. Even if you don’t care that much about the prospect, do it for yourself. And if this is your sales manager’s MO, you might want to find somebody else to work for. If he has no problem lying to a prospect, he certainly won’t have any problem lying to you too. Good luck!

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