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Overpromise And Deliver

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 1, 2009 9:12:22 AM

business_growthYou show me a salesperson that doesn’t overpromise a little and I’ll show you a salesperson that’s not driving economic value for their company.

I hate timidity in the market.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a degree of humility, but timidity gets you nowhere.  One of the surest signs of timidity is wrapped up in the statement that salespeople should “under-promise and over-deliver.”

I’ve written before about why the “exceed expectations” theory of customer service is flawed, and about the drought facing all businesses today.  There’s an old adage that says, “if you're not growing, you’re shrinking.”  I’ll add, “If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.”

Getting better is a state of mind, it’s a never-ending pursuit.  It is easier, faster, and less risky when you are constantly getting a little better every day.  Ten moderate improvements are far more effective than one big leap. Too often businesses attempt to get better in a chunky manner, where they make big improvements at various times.

Businesses launch new initiatives, new products, or new innovations.  The marketing and sales teams are then directed to take these improvements to the market.  Management sits back (a slight exaggeration) confident that more and bigger orders will flow in and margins will expand.  Of course, this rarely happens.

When a go-to-market team (anyone involved in driving sales and retaining clients) isn’t constantly pushing the envelope, it becomes very static.  It becomes increasingly product and/or solutions focused, and it thrusts itself into the middle of the commoditization trap. Customer and clients get a hardened viewpoint of the selling company, so that when a new, big improvement is introduced, it takes significant time and effort (typically time and effort that is not available) to get buyer and seller in sync.  There is also far more risk involved in this approach because the innovation is driven by viewpoint of the selling company, not the demands of the buying company.

While overpromising sounds dangerous, when done properly, it’s not (please note overpromising is not the same thing as promising that you’ll do something that you either won’t do or can’t do – that’s lying).  A salesperson overpromises when they identify a new need that they believe can be addressed by the company’s offerings, and they build the selling case on that need, even though it’s not been done before that way.

When a salesperson effectively overpromises, they drive three critical business results:


  • They increase the perceived value of the sale (thus shortening the sales cycle time and increasing margins), because the sale is directed at a critical customer need, rather than a solutions-oriented benefit.

  • They push their company to get better.  They knock down the “that can’t be done” walls before they’re build.  They force operations to find ways to get more done.

  • Because they’re allowed to overpromise, they go deeper in understanding the customer, and the knowledge they gain from understanding their customer better than they understand themselves (the first, and most important, rule in creating demand) gives the company a significant competitive advantage.


What do you think?

Topics: B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Training/Coaching, Demand Generation