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How Not to Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

Home Blog How Not to Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

How Not to Over-Promise and Under-Deliver

by Mike Chalmers

In life, one of the most common relationship strains is caused by over-promising and under-delivering. Most people don’t set out to offer what they can’t follow through on, but too many do it. Some learn from it. Some can’t seem to get out of the cycle. 

The Problem

In business, over-promising occurs when a supplier believes the client company wants to hear certain things about cost, quality, and timelines. They work hard to prove they can meet even unrealistic expectations.

They know it will mean longer hours for their teams, time away from family and lower profits, yet their preoccupation with a sale overrides those concerns. In the end, the result even with herculean efforts is to fall short, and under-deliver.

The Alternative

But there’s a better way when you understand that most clients would rather an upfront and truthful conversation about the real costs of doing business with you, than to hire a firm that downplays the issues just for new business.

Don’t promise figures without knowing the real costs to your own company. Ask for more details so you can negotiate intelligently on the particulars. Offer what you know you can deliver at a price that’s worthwhile for you both. Then deliver with excellence.

Smart clients aren’t looking for a supplier that will forego profitability to work for them. They know that when you do well, there’s more opportunity for you to pass on benefits to them. Don’t cut out your own profitability thinking you are gaining a partner.

Your inability to pay your bills will not serve them or you in the long-run.

Three Key Differentiators

Clients are typically looking for at least three differentiators when first learning about your company, even if unspoken. These are just as important as cost, timeline, and quality and will greatly impact the perceived benefit they’ll receive from you:

1. Trust

They want to know if they can trust you with their business. They’re looking for signs of integrity and evidence you care about their success—not just your own profit. Trustworthy suppliers help companies grow and thrive.

If you over-promise, trust is one of the first things to suffer. On the other hand, sharing actual costs and issues up-front demonstrates trust is important to you. You’d rather lose a sale than pretend you can accomplish the impossible.

2. Value

This is a two-part evaluation. Clients want to know if you understand (a) their value, and (b) the value you bring to the table. When they know you understand value, they have greater confidence in your ability to add value to them. If you over-promise, by definition you are underselling your own value. You have promised more for less than your time is worth.

Additionally, your ability to receive better remuneration is tied to your knowledge of the value they bring to their own marketplace. If you can’t learn their value proposition well enough to know how to add value to it, your own value proposition has just diminished.

Take the time to learn about your client, their industry, and how they do what they do. Then see how you can maximize your value to them.

3. Investment

Smart clients always want ROI. They don’t have time to continually switch suppliers, nor do they want to waste dollars vetting new companies frequently because of bad partnerships. They want to know they’ll see returns for every dollar they spend with you.

When suppliers over-promise with hopes of charging more for future business, the client detects a diminishing return for their dollar. Conversely, if they know that you can dependably deliver consistent value, they have more opportunity to innovate and produce greater gains of their own.

The Bottom Line

Neglect these three differentiators to the detriment of your own success. They will help a company understand that your quality is better, that you are capable of executing on projects, and that your cost is lower for the true value you deliver.

Ultimately, being trustworthy, adding value, and being a sound investment for your clients takes more time than over-promising and under-delivering. But then, so does any legitimate business endeavor.


Featured image: © E. Elnosiva for Getty/iStock

Mike Chalmers is the owner/founder of Swivel and editor of SwivelBlog. He holds an MBA in Enterprise Growth and has more than 20 Years in business, technology, and entertainment experience. Areas of interest include strategy, product development, market research, and others. Mike and his wife Tanya have four children.