The word “exaggerate” is described by terms and phrases like the following:  magnify, pile up, aggravate; amplify, overestimate, hyperbolize; overcharge, overstate, overdraw, overlay, overshoot the mark, overpraise; make much of,  make the most of; strain, – a point; stretch, – a point; go great lengths.

It has long been assumed that salespeople resort to exaggeration in order to sell product features and benefits. Deception research has classified deceptive practices according to the kind of information that is misrepresented.  These deceptions include lying about a price, intentions to engage in an action, making false promises, creating misleading arguments designed to have the other party draw incorrect conclusions, and presentation of partial truths that are misleading.  However, current selling training practices emphasize a non- manipulative, more principle-centered approach to sales. The result is a more ethically grounded sales presentation that does not rely on exaggeration for sales transactions to be closed.

Exaggeration is a covert mental process that introduces a positive or negative bias in verbal or written presentations. Exaggeration carries with it a desire to “look good” as judged by the audience. Research specifically focused on exaggeration is slim.  Some describes exaggeration as a normal aspect of a healthy personality, manifesting itself in a mildly exaggerated and positive self-image that goes beyond objective self-appraisal. Conversely, exaggeration has been shown to be negatively correlated with peer effectiveness ratings in a group of professionals.

  • Under what circumstances is a salesperson’s use of exaggeration acceptable?
  • What are the implications of excessive exaggeration (at least as viewed by the customer)  for long term  relationships with customers?  Do customers expect exaggeration and ignore much of it?