Are soft lies in sales okay?

Really, does it matter at all if you make up small lies while doing sales? If you convince yourself that it is sort of true but deep inside you know it is fundamentally a lie, are you okay with that?

I’ve known sales people going to extremes: promising benefits which never were, projecting products with made up facts and use other tricks of the trade just to get that sale. They are desperate to make a sale. This is quite common in finance industry. But, in this post, I am not concerned about blatant lies made up to trick innocent people.

I am really split whether it is fine to get involved with the oh-so-common sales gimmicks, little lies, subtle hints, etc. that do not harm the customer but add just a little boost to your business objectives. My right half of brain says that a lie, no matter how small it is, is fundamentally a lie. My left half of brain says it is okay to use industry standard tricks, business is brutal and so should you be.

Many of the iconic companies did this in the past. For example, Bill Gates told IBM that he had an OS when he never had. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumor that Facebook created fake profiles to boost membership at the start is really true. Moreover, highly admired companies on Internet do what I would classify as grey-to-black hat SEO. Is it all RIGHT? Aren’t they compromising their integrity with all such practices?

What is your opinion on this matter?


  1. To make a sale is to bring about a certain change in the customer which is good for him. No customer likes to change just for a small benefit. A salesmen knowing that the change is good for the customer, he can exaggerate the benefits to get customer’s buy-in.
    There are few products (like twitter) in this world that are vastly superior to its next best alternative. Rest of them have to resort to those soft lies if they are to be in Business.
    It is like making a mistake worth 1 Rupee to get a benefit worth 100 Rupees.
    Please don’t mistake me, I am not an advocate of telling lies. But Business is no simple Black and White, it is always in gray area.

  2. I have a more Darwinian view of the whole thing : there IS an optimal level of lies. For a good sales pitch, there need to be enough lies to make the product seem substantially better than competitors etc. but not so many that credibility is lost. For a customer, there is an identical Darwinian choice between believing the salesman and making appropriate inquiry.

    Give the ethics and morality a rest, and let evolution solve the problem for you. Because in the words of the famous Dr.Orgel , “Evolution is cleverer than you are.”

  3. Nash, I like your analogy but I sort of have a feeling that just because evolution is cool, it doesn’t make it applicable to all fields ๐Ÿ™‚

    You could of course argue that in the long run an unstable equilibrium would be reached for the level of lies but in this whole story we forget about individuals. Over a long period of time what you may be doing could be right but you won’t be knowing that NOW. So, you take your best guess and let evolution do its own job.

  4. In my opinion, never let the customer know he is getting screwed or is overpaying, as long we minimize the number of cases where someone is pissed off after reading the fine print we should a good business model.

  5. Customers are more likely to buy something after being well informed, if the sales are of very high volume or very popular product then promotion could be very easy, but its always a good thing to show the customers of the advantages of our product vs the competitions main stream offerings and if that involves few soft lies then its understandable

    After all not all customers believe what a sales person says these days, most of them are already well informed.

    But the most important aspect of a lie is that the product which we promote backed by our lies will some day hit us back, most of these happens when what we promise don’t actually happen and the customer is pissed.

  6. Hi. Great stuff. I actually stumbled upon your blog accidentally but was amazed by its content. The information was really good and i would love to come back often. So I have given link to your blog from my blog. Same thing is expected from your side for good colleboration & mutual gain.

  7. The motto of America is – IN GOD WE TRUST and they are the most aethist nation almost 90% people dont belive in God .

    The motto of India is – Truth must previal and Indians are liars to the core , as we believe even God says lies …If you look at how Indians in a short passage of 15 years are ruling all the great industries of world without knowing the basic ABC of technology ….you will be forced to think Indians must be lying all over .

  8. I think even with soft lies or as some might call them “white lies” there is the risk of a person getting away with those small lies and not knowing when to stop, they might go from soft lies to lying to the point of risking everything.

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