In ancient Greece, the famed philosopher Diogenes walked the daylight streets with a lantern in search of an honest man. In your work as a financial advisor, do you ever feel the same way– that way too many clients have lost touch with the truth? If so, you’re not alone.

In the sales process, prospects often tell “white lies” to deflect you. They say they can’t meet with you because of their doctor’s appointments (no such thing), their existing coverage (no such policy) or their existing advisor (no such brother-in-law). If you do get to meet with them, they may tell more serious lies, such as hiding medical conditions, overstating assets or hiding their true motivations for taking your time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of clients are truthful. But the lying happens often enough to get under your skin. In fact, as one agent commented, “You don’t know whether to laugh or to get mad at clients for thinking you are stupid.” So what do you do when a prospect or client lies to you? The answer depends on your assessment of the magnitude–and context–of the lie.

For example, if a prospect gives you a phony excuse for breaking an appointment, do you simply banish them from your prospect list? Probably not because if you did this with every fibbing prospect, you wouldn’t write much business. Rather, try to view such white lies as buying objections. As such, you want to meet them head on, respond to the underlying concern, and then attempt to close the sale again.

If a lie is serious–for example, it deals with preventing a negative event (getting declined for life insurance) or with augmenting a positive event (misstating age to get a larger benefit)–then watch out. People who tell such lies are trouble magnets. You ultimately need to consider whether they’re worth dealing with.

So the next time a prospect or client lies to you, take a deep breath, and then:

  • Give the person the benefit of the doubt. Don’t automatically assume someone is lying. Probe to see if there’s a misunderstanding.
  • Call out the lie. When you hear a lie, don’t just let it pass. Let the client know it’s in both of your best interests to be completely forthright. Then, ask for a clarification.
  • Encourage the individual to come clean. When the person admits to lying, give them another chance. If the lying persists, reconsider whether you want him or her as a client.

Finally, don’t be afraid to keep your truth lantern lit during the day. Like Diogenes, you want the world to know how much you value the truth–and welcome those who speak it.