How to Tell if Your Customer Is Lying

By Carolee Boyles

“Is it actually a lie, or is the customer just trying to get a better deal?” asks Molly Conroy, vice president of technical services for the Friedman Group in Golden, CO. “Many times it comes down to price or an objection of some kind. When it’s price, it may mean – Hey, I was down the street and saw it at this deal, or somebody else will offer me this.”

If you know your competition well, you’ll know right away whether the customer is lying. But if you aren’t that familiar with your competition, you must rely on other cues. Open communication involves more than just words. Body language and other nonverbal cues – tone and loudness of voice, posture, eye contact, pacing of words, and the speed at which someone speaks – provide a great deal of information about what the client actually is saying.

“Looking at body language and listening to tone of voice is very important,” Conroy says. “If the person is sitting upright and still or standing with an erect posture, what he’s telling you is probably the truth. Direct eye contact and a look of concentration also are signals that the person is being honest with you. But if the customer is slouching in his chair, or fiddling with items on the desk while he looks out the window or off into the distance, be suspicious – you may not be getting the straight story.

“If the customer says yes when you ask: Do you like it? but his body language says no, then – depending on how well you know the customer – you may be able to say: I can tell that something’s up; why don’t you tell me what you’re unsure of,” Conroy says. “It’s all about watching whether or not people turn away from you or maintain eye contact with you while they’re talking.”

Signs of a truthful response:

  • Sitting upright and still, or standing with erect posture
  • Direct eye contact; look of concentration
  • Head tilted slightly sideways, nods of understanding or agreement
  • Logical, polite and appropriate responses
  • Relaxed and open stance – arms resting at sides, hands folded in lap
  • Smiling, with face relaxed and a look of acknowledgment

    Signs of a less-than-open response:

  • Slouching in a chair, leaning while standing or constantly fidgeting
  • Looking off into the distance or having a blank, glazed-over or distant look
  • Head tilted far back or far forward, or constantly moving the neck (stretching)
  • Robotic, patronizing or inappropriate responses
  • Still and defensive posturing – arms crossed, hands shoved deeply into pockets
  • Frowning, taut face, furrowed brow, look of confusion or bewilderment