Isn't Under-Promising Going To Cost Me The Deal?

On my recent Sales Apprentice blog, I was asked the following question (see below). I get asked quite a lot of questions via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and of course my success blog and it would take up all of my time to answer all of them however I do try and utilise the themes for later blog posts.

Some however are best picked up separately and this I felt was one of them as it is a question that I get asked in one form or another quite a lot when I am speaking at conferences or talking with clients…

Long time reader of these blogs but first time posting. I’m a big fan of the Apprentice, although I think the programme’s claims that the contestants rank among the ‘best business brains in Britain’ is a little far-fetched! That said, it’s one of the only shows that I and my better half can watch together (Desperate Housewives doesn’t do it for me, nor is Top Gear or Match of the Day really her cup of tea!).

My question to you, based on the above blog, is this. ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’ is often cited as one of the key strategies of successful salespeople, and in theory it makes perfect sense. However, when selling in a highly competitive marketplace (recruitment for me, although I think this applies to any competitive, non-commodity based selling) I can’t help but feel that by under-promising there is plenty of potential for a salesperson to lose out by appearing to fail to offer the same quality of service that the competition are offering. Agreed, those competitors are probably over-egging their ability, but how is the client to know this? Surely if one person is saying to a prospect ‘I can deliver this with bells on’ and the other is saying ‘I can probably deliver but I can’t guarantee anything at this stage,’ the client is more likely to go with what looks, on the face of it, to be a safe bet.

Thanks for taking the time to ask this question. I would totally agree with you about the claims made on The  Apprentice (and in real life). The programme really should come with one of those fast, low-talking, legal messages like they have on the finance ads, “Warning! All claims made by Apprentii may or may not be true. Viewers may be disappointed by candidates’ inability to follow through on any of their plans.”

As an aside, I understand the frustration of looking for joint programmes. In our house Desperate Housewives vs Match of the Day sit firmly on opposite sides of the fence and The Apprentice is a safe bet. We also like legal stuff and quite enojoyed Silk recently…

Regarding your question, and it’s a good one…

I understand your fear about the “under-promise, over-deliver” mantra. And your fear about losing the deal to someone promising the earth. Leaving aside the fact that if a company constantly promises the earth and fails to deliver they will create a poor repuatation and consequently will lose business in the long term, we also have to consider the fact that companies are sick and tired of hearing bragging, boasting salespeople.

It’s not what we say that makes the sale, it’s the sales process and the sales conversation.

‘I can deliver this with bells on’ vs. ‘I can probably deliver but I can’t guarantee anything at this stage.’

Under-promising and over-delivering is a way of living it is not a line! If you constantly deliver more than you promised then your clients will become raving fans. But all of this takes time and commitment and needs to be attached to the right sales approach. It needs to be attached to the right conversations. It needs to be attached to the right relationships.

Most clients start from a place of thinking that salespeople are going to add little to no value to the sales process. They start from a place where they believe salespeople will get in and close the deal, saying anything to secure the commission to fund their next BMW or their caffeine habit. For this reason, they pay little attention to your claims or your details and therefore postitive “exaggeration” as you put it can sometimes seem more useful than simple honesty.

But this need not and should not be the case.

The best salespeople come from an ethos of wanting to help. They come from a land of “how can I add value?” They hail from a hometown of openness and honesty.

This is not a matter of using one line or another, it is a powerful philosophy and a way of being. Sales superstars genuinely don’t focus on the individual deal because they know that they add value and they know that they will form powerful relationships with the right clients. And they do enough prospecting / marketing / awareness / adding value that they always have opportunities.

So under-promising starts with mindset and genuninely caring about your client or prospect. It follows through with understanding why someone would buy not convincing them to buy. And it continues by knowing your market, knowing how you add value, working hard and never pushing people to buy when it’s not right.

When you have lowered the barriers to communication normally present in the sale and your prospect trusts you, they will respect your your honesty and connect with you to work out together whether or not you should do business now or in the future…

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