The Myth of Over-Delivering

By Colleen Francis

It sounds like the dream sales team: the one that under-promises and over-delivers, creating an overjoyed customer and exceeding expectations on the sale. What more could you ask for? Have you ever found yourself telling your team to under-promise and over-deliver? If so, today’s the day to put a stop to it. That seemingly excellent policy does, in fact, erode your customer’s trust in your company over time, and can eventually harm your relationship.

The Importance of Consistency

Surprises have their place in life, but that place isn’t in business. Keep your surprises to birthday parties and presents, and remember that your customer will only trust you if they know exactly what they’re getting from you each time they do business. Clients love consistency, and consistent behavior over time builds trust—the ultimate goal in your customer relationships and customer loyalty.

Most sales leaders and reps know intuitively not to over-promise, declaring that their customer will receive the world and then giving them something less once the sale has been transacted, especially when the rep knows that the promises are empty. Customers feel that they’ve been lied to in the sales process and are typically underwhelmed with their purchase, even if it otherwise was a good one, because it’s been framed all wrong for them. There’s nothing worse than feeling as though a company has taken your money and not delivered the value you expect.

So what’s the harm in doing the opposite?  Imagine your sales team goes to the customer pre-sale and downplays availability, the delivery date, the features and functions and then, in the end, they deliver a product that’s better than the customer could have ever expected from the sales pitch. Of course, the customer at this point is overjoyed. You’ve more than satisfied their requirements, but will you be able to consistently maintain that standard throughout the life cycle of that customer?

Essentially, you’ve become a liar; the customer can’t trust what you’re saying. From now on, when you tell them something, they’re going to assume you’re being modest and that you can produce more than you said. In many cases, this won’t be the case, and the one time you deliver what you say, your customer will be disappointed.

Building Trust Through Delivery

The best way for you to build trust with a customer is to maintain this mantra throughout the customer life cycle: “Do exactly what you say you’ll do.” This means you need to start by telling the customer what you’re going to do in terms of product delivery and what the product or service can do in terms of features. Then, proceed to deliver exactly as you said you would and when you said you would, and ensure the product performs exactly as you said it would.

It’s a simple concept, but by sticking by our promises, we develop a culture internally that ensures the customer is treated consistently and the highest level of trust is cultivated.

Over-delivering can also erode your ability to make sales and achieve your revenue targets. The customer comes to expect extras in the transaction when they’re accustomed to them as part of the sale—your “over-delivery” actually becomes an implicit promise.  The customer demands the extras. The day you don’t add products or exceed your service speed, your customer looks at it as a failure—even if you delivered exactly on target to what you were saying. Over time, this erodes your sales process and relationship with customers.

By creating a culture in which your promises to customers are honored, you’re also creating a culture of trust. Remember that impressing your client over their entire lifecycle is more important than dazzling them once and then disappointing forever after, and train your sales staff to outline expectations during the sales process and deliver consistently.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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