Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead
Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea
Clare: Great to see you again Fred. Todays DON’T for salespeople is ‘Don’t Overdeliver’. This is really interesting because I know lots of salespeople think that’s a really cool thing to do. Tell me a little bit more, what do you mean by that? Don’t overdeliver.
Fred: I suspect a lot of people will be surprised by this because we often hear that ‘under promise and overdeliver’ is good practice. We’re not saying don’t deliver at all. Absolutely, you’ve got to deliver, but it’s when you go too far over and beyond that can cause a problem.
I’m talking about when you’re doing things with good intent to try and wow the customer. All with good intent and whilst thinking that what you’re doing is actually a great thing, you can make a bit of a rod for your own back. I guess people are overdelivering because they think – if I do, the customer is going to like me more. They’re going to think I’m great. They’re going to think this is superb. I will get more business because they’ll be super satisfied. This isn’t necessarily true.
Clare: What you’re saying is that actually when we think of overdelivering, as I have done in the past, we’re doing it because we want to wow our customer. We’ve always been told, under promise overdeliver, that will make the customer like us more and therefore give us more business. However, you’re saying that logic is flawed.
Fred: It is flawed, because I think that what it can do, is it doesn’t wow the customer, it worries them. They think ‘Oh, what’s going on here then? This isn’t what I thought we’d agreed to, I thought we were going to get A and B and we seem to be getting ABCD and E’. They think ‘They have not understood me properly’, or ‘Am I going to have to pay for this?When is that going to come back to bite me because I didn’t believe that to be part of the deal? They might not really be seeing it as added value. It’s more of a case of being a bit uncertain about things. It can surprise them. It can even disconcert them a little bit.
Clare: Now that you’ve said that; that is actually true because people also think that there’s no such thing as a free lunch either. So they may be thinking ‘Why have I got this as extra?’
I love your thought. Which was, does it actually demonstrate that the salesperson doesn’t really understand what was asked for? I’m a big proponent of making sure you demonstrate to the customer that you do understand the requirement. However, if you’re giving them more, if that suddenly demonstrates that you don’t understand the requirement, you could create some trust issues as well.
Fred: That’s right, remember, we’re not saying don’t deliver. It is rather, this is what we’ve agreed and this is what you need. This is what’s going to solve the problem, this is going to satisfy you. We do need the customer to be satisfied or indeed we can delight them, but we also don’t want to raise the bar so much that customers just start to expect it all the time. Then when we try and say ‘Well, no, that was just because it was the first time, and you were a new customer. I always do a whole lot of good things for new customers just to keep them happy’. The customer is now thinking ‘Okay, so that’s just for a new customer only then is it? Now that I’ve signed up, I’m not getting that’. It’s going to backfire that way, so it’s another reason why that’s flawed.
Clare: We know that if we give something to somebody and then take it away, that’s a big demotivator as well.
Fred: We’ve raised the bar, the customer thought what’s the catch? There wasn’t a catch as such, but then we’re taking something away. That leaves the client saying ‘Well now you have annoyed me, it’s frustrated me because I got used to having those benefits’.
The other flaw in this is that these benefits are potentials for upsell. For us to add more value and more discussions to improve what we’re doing with them… but from the paid point of view. We are in business, we’re doing this for a reason, that’s what sales is.
Clare: What would you recommend people do and how much do we deliver versus overdeliver? Could you explain that a little bit more?
Fred: Sure. We deliver, and we deliver well. We understand what their expectations are, that’s part and parcel of sales process anyway, and we make sure we absolutely tick the boxes according to that. Even by asking the questions as to what people’s expectations are, that can start to set you apart as a salesperson anyway. Where we can really get some of this delight is through the selling experience, the buying experience. This can be through the fact that you are easy to deal with, or you really understand the customer, or when you deliver, it always absolutely hits the mark.
It is not that you throw loads of extra things at the customer for the sake of it. Its more to do with that you ‘get them’. You’re doing what you said, because you’ve understood what the customer needs and it’s a joy to deal with you. You’re going to actually still get that outcome that you’re looking for by just being excellent at what you do.
Clare: What you’re saying is be consistent in good delivery. Good, solid delivery. Consistency is more important than overdelivering.
Fred: Knowing what consistent looks like. Doing that, setting up to do that, delivering on that, and then checking that we are delivering on that. We might think we’re delivering when we throw a load of things at people, but actually then find out that it was irrelevant to them. It was easy for us to do, but it didn’t add any value to them. Rather, it’s as we’re delivering, we are checking that it’s making sense and that the value that they’re expecting is being delivered. That can be part of the whole experience as well. People will think they’re in safe hands and think ‘Yes, it’s good to be your customer. This is what I’m looking for. This is what I wanted out of the business relationship’.
Clare: Interesting. It is often the way that you sell and ultimately communicate that makes it easy for people. I have an example, recently I had a sofa which didn’t get delivered on time and was delayed by three months in the end. Some other things went wrong as well, they delivered something wrong, there were several things going wrong and it was really irritating because there was some good communication and some bad communication. Of course, we always remember the bad. Eventually they offered me £50 pounds. I said, well, £50 would it be okay for the first lot of mistakes, but you’ve now done all this other stuff since then. So now I would expect more, because you’ve already said to me, I was going to get something. I asked for double that £100. It was really interesting because they came back with £115 on a card. Which is quite good, but it didn’t make me think any more about their customer service. I just thought, she didn’t really understand, I would’ve been happy with a hundred. If she just apologized and given me a hundred pounds, that would have done it. The £115 did not increase my level of satisfaction at all, whereas her listening to me, would’ve done. I would use them again because they’re aftercare generally is quite good, but I’m still a bit annoyed by the way they handled it all. Even with £115 pounds back.
Fred: It’s my suspicious mind because I’d be thinking, ‘Then could you have given me £150 for that?’
Clare: Haha, maybe I should have and then there’s all of sorts of other psychology that comes into play.
Fred: She has thought ‘That was my absolute maximum, I’ve given that and hopefully that makes the customer feel better’. It doesn’t, it’s just makes you more suspicious for the reason in that you actually never delivered what you should have done. Actually, could you have given me more? I don’t know what you could have done now.
Clare: I think you’re right, as customers we are often suspicious.
You’re saying deliver and deliver well and have consistent delivery. Of course, raise the bar when you need to, but then consistently raise the bar if that’s relevant. Only raise the bar when you’ve got good feedback, check their expectations. Do feedback calls to check their expectations have been met, to make sure they are happy, which of course is all about communicating well and good relationship management
Fred: Too right I think even those feedback calls and the process of delivering very well is going to get us that outcome we want in itself, rather than overdelivery.
So that’s why I would say don’t overdeliver, but deliver very, very well. Subtle differences.
Clare: Don’t overdeliver, deliver very well, because sometimes when you overdeliver, you could actually reduce the value of what you’re delivering
Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.