Even the CIA didn’t believe the truth when it was right in front of them. How could the CIA miss signals and overlook deception from a long-time work colleague—someone they believed had integrity? A person they knew to be upright, truthful, and who “played by the rules?” And if the best human lie detectors in the world can be fooled, how can any of us laypeople know when someone is telling the truth?

These questions are at the heart of Malcom Gladwell’s new book, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about People We Don’t Know. Here’s how Amazon describes it:

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true? 

The book is even more intriguing than the description. I learned about lies, doubts, and why truth can be stranger than fiction.

We’ve all had doubts about people, but were they enough to override our reasons for believing this person was OK? Probably not. In hindsight, we saw the red flags, but we didn’t have enough doubts. Yes, enough. As humans, we default to believing others over trusting our own instincts about a person. That’s how we’re wired. We have doubts about people, but not enough doubts to convince us that the person is a liar.

What has all of this to do with sales? I have no clue. But the book has captivated my attention, and I wanted to share some of my insights from the 99 pages I’ve read so far. For more on referral sales, check out my blog posts from this month:

Why You Need to Make Time for Asking for Referrals

Message to sales leaders: Your job is to get the rocks off the road so your team can close deals, exceed quota, and blow past revenue goals. Is your team asking for referrals? Are you getting customer referrals? Or are you sticking with your current prospecting strategy—“personalized” marketing and social media blasts? (Newsflash: That’s all just tech speak for “cold calling.”)

Account execs are overwhelmed with conflicting messaging, technology overload, and lack of resources. Teams are working all hours and skipping vacation, and they lack sufficient sleep. Oh, and they’re not making quota—not even close. There IS a better way. If you want to get different results, try a different approach. Make referral business your top priority. (Read “Why You Need to Make Time for Asking for Referrals.”)

Why Customer Loyalty Isn’t Always About More Choices

I was so frustrated. I was trying to contact a prospect and couldn’t find the company phone number on their website. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but the phone works. I wasn’t cold calling, I was calling a referral—who, by the way, had no contact information on his email signature. I’ve walked out of many retail stores when no one even bothered to acknowledge I was there. That’s just plain rude, and it’s certainly not how to build customer loyalty. It’s equally rude and appalling in a business-to-business setting—whether that interaction is happening in person or online.

Companies invest significant money on marketing—email campaigns, SEO, and strategies for getting found and building customer loyalty. Then they blow it by being hard to reach. (Read “Why Customer Loyalty Isn’t Always About More Choices.”)

Why You Should Live (and Work) in a State of Awe

Our blackout lasted for three (obviously stressful) days. We left the dark house each morning and returned late at night to sleep. When I pulled into our driveway one night, I got out of the car and looked up at the sky. I was in awe. The stars were peppered across the sky—more than I’d ever seen before. It was an exquisite display in our heavens—jaw-dropping, for sure.

Many of us have had moments like this. For me, it was seeing Machu Picchu, viewing the three mastiffs in Patagonia, visiting the Terracotta soldiers in China, seeing the Eiffel Tower lighted at night from a boat on the Seine, and standing on Omaha Beach on June 9, 2019. I want to create more “awe” moments in my life, starting this holiday season. (Read “Why You Should Live (and Work) in a State of Awe. ”)