Most marketers have heard the phrase ‘Truth in Advertising’ and there’s even a spoof on YouTube about the lack thereof. But, what about Truth in PR…and Sales?
After speaking to students at Carnegie Mellon University on marketing and public relations, I was surprised that many of their questions focused on whether or not telling the truth in the media was a sound strategy.
As our parents and kindergarten teachers taught us, the obvious moral answer is ‘Yes.’ However, it is also the practical approach.
First, with regard to media and public relations, telling the truth is essential. You can pick your favorite media gaffe that resulted from a public figure being less than truthful. The Media will find and report contradictions and in the internet age, the story can potentially reach the masses within minutes.
Journalists have been taught to ‘get the story, get it first and get it right’ throughout their educational and career experiences. They have both the instincts and the training to tirelessly pursue what they believe to be the truth. If you hide behind a ‘no comment’ or offer a less than truthful response, you will be perceived negatively when the reporter eventually does break the story…and someone will.
With regard to Truth in Sales, think about how you feel when you are the prospect and a salesperson goes on and on about the amazing things his or her product can do. You probably wish that they would shut up and listen to what you are saying so you can tell them what you want. Salespeople are often trained to use various ‘closing techniques.’ The problem with these so called ‘techniques’ is that they usually question the intelligence of the prospect and end up being a waste of time for everyone involved.
Selling is more about the basics, the equivalent of blocking and tackling in football. Salespeople need to listen to the prospect, ask probing questions and needs match appropriately based on the strengths of their product or service. Admit the weaknesses of your product early because the prospect will usually know or figure out that your product isn’t perfect. Focus on the true strengths of your product, service or company and leave the hyperbole to your competitors.
Truth in Advertising does exist and the winning companies adhere to it. Truth in PR must exist or you and your company will lose credibility. Truth in Sales will help you stand out from the competition and ultimately lead to more business for your company.