This is the first in a three part series dedicated to helping business owners refine their sales strategy. This article focuses on the value of authenticity.

75 years ago, a salesperson could waltz into a town, bamboozle the residents with an outlandish but well-delivered sales pitch, and convince every family in town to pull out their wallet and make a purchase. But things are different today. The sheer amount of information that is available to most people in this country has made us, for better or for worse, much more skeptical and cynical. Many consumers don’t like to be sold to. We prefer to buy on our terms—we’ll compare rates and product specs online, and perhaps read a few reviews, before making a decision when we’re good and ready.

Successful businesses adapt. And one important way to do this is to concentrate on authenticity. A great sales pitch isn’t enough today. Prospects will listen to your pitch, but they’ll want some verification or validation before they pull out the credit card. Your pitch should focus on the true value your product or service provides. I understand that sometimes it can be tempting to stretch the truth, but this is a losing strategy in the long run.

The focus of your sales team should still be on “wowing” the customer, but doing so by focusing on the value you provide, not by doing or saying whatever it takes to close the deal. (Yes, I’ve known plenty of business owners who would do or say whatever it takes, no matter how dishonest. They didn’t last long.)  While an honest approach to a sales opportunity won’t always result in an immediate sale, in many cases it will create the opportunity for follow-up contact. Your prospects will appreciate your honesty and authenticity, and, even if they aren’t ready to commit today. They will remember you when they are ready to commit.

Even though it can be tempting to stretch the truth to make a sale, in the long run, honesty is the best policy. Stay authentic.