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We Got It Wrong: Never Under Promise & Over Deliver
You know how it is, you believe something for so long, everyone agrees with you, all the books tell you it’s true and then suddenly you have a blinding revelation – we’ve all been deceived! You know like my gorilla friends? (If you’re not sure about my gorilla friends, then you really need to read the book – we’ve got a great deal on right now!)
And you feel like a fool – how did I ever fall for that – there is just no logic – I must have been a fool. Let me explain.
“Under promise and over deliver”
You know the old saying “Under Promise & Over Deliver”? – Well, here’s the idea behind it.
Customers are more and more ready to complain these days when something isn’t to their liking (yes, even in the UK!) Customers are ready to walk if you don’t deliver when you said you would. Customers are mobile and promiscuous and will switch providers if they can get better service.
So to meet these requirements, for the last 20 years or so, we’ve all been applying the mantra “Under promise & over deliver” – for example, tell them a job that’s going to take 10 days will take 12, then wow them when you deliver before deadline.
Now, this sounds great in theory – your client can’t help but be impressed by your over-delivering! Or can I?
Now think about it some more. Mr. Client comes and you promise to deliver the project by 2pm on Tuesday, even though you know you can finish it by Friday. Hey, that gives you a weekend to think, Monday morning to add the polish and you can deliver it Monday afternoon. Excellent under-promised and over-delivered job! But what is actually happening?
The client is delighted – you delivered a day early. But then Mr. Client has a few passing thoughts; did that mean it wasn’t as complicated a project as you said? Or could you finish it by Friday? Maybe you overdid it?
Because he is happy that you did what you said and within the time scale, he pushes his doubts to the background.
However, the client is now learning to “expect” (it’s their job) the service you’ve created in your fantastic and promised way. So he gives you another project. You give him a deadline and a price, again under-promising, so you can confidently deliver with a big smile on your face. The client remembers their thoughts from the last project and asks you to “try a little harder” on the timeline. Yeah, because hey, you like the guy. He was really grateful last time.
And so, the next time Mr. Client asks you to do something, he expects it to be done as quickly and efficiently and at the same cost as before – now he won’t be impressed by your over-delivery – this is just his expectation.
And unfortunately, when you deliver on time and on budget, Mr. Client wonders why it took so long. He wonders if he pushed a little harder to get you a lower price or a shorter timeframe. And push, and push…
You have taught your client that you can do it faster than you told them. Doubts are there. He wonders if you lied to him! Shame!
And what happens if something goes wrong – if you can’t deliver in a realistic time frame – or the price escalates? Or did someone let you down, or are the goalposts changing?
Now, the problems are a bit broader than the example above.
Some of our clients even say that these days, in order to have a chance to get a job, they have to make big promises (and then think about how to keep them 😉
Often the client needs to do their part to make the project work – and she’ll have her clients and other things to do!
More and more often you are not working on a project in isolation, there may be other suppliers in the equation
All of this can lead to dissatisfaction for all involved.
So what is the answer
Well, all things considered, you still need to make a promise to your customers, but the answer is in the details. The answer lies in understanding what is important to the client and working with the client to make sure you can deliver on that. Then leave something you have complete control over.
In our course “Coaches can!” we are talking about the difference between control and influence.
So, before I let you in on our secret, I’d like to clarify the difference between Control and Influence. To me, not understanding the difference between what you can control and what you can only influence is the biggest cause of customer disappointment and failure.
Control against influence (outcomes and intentions)
That which is beyond your immediate and complete manipulation is not, whether we like it or not, under our control. So what is under our control?
* Our emotions and motivation (although not all of us accept it)
* Our response to external influences (although not all of us accept this either)
* The direction we are going in life
* Any action we take
* The way we communicate
* What we say and do and promise
* What we choose to believe or ignore
* Inanimate objects and tools we use
We can only influence everything else outside of us (especially other animals/humans). Here are some examples of things you can influence just…
* Does anyone like you
* Will people buy
* What other people consider important
* Regardless of whether people believe you
* Convincing someone of something
* Getting someone to do something (even if you are a hypnotist)
Of course, you can exert enough leverage to make it look like control. If someone held a gun to your head, they could probably influence you to do a lot of things. But despite that, they couldn’t make you think differently or feel differently about something because they still only have influence.
Finally, there are some things we have no direct control or influence over… like time, space, time, where we start in life, but there’s no use dwelling on the things we can’t do – because it’s more empowering to focus on what we can do.
You can’t control how your customers feel, but you can influence it. You need to concentrate on explaining the value, not the cost. Understanding their actual requirements rather than standard time and budget requirements. You need to understand what you control and what you can only influence. And then you have to over promise and deliver on the things that are within your control.
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