A New Sales Strategy

With the changing of the selling model to where the customer is in control; I contend that the old sales strategy of promising the world and getting the order no longer works.  Instead, I would suggest a different approach of under-promising and over-delivering. Let me give a few examples to support my hypothesis.

The wood man:  For those very cold nights in Maine we buy fire place wood from a local young man. The sales cycle goes something like this.  In the fall I get a call from the “wood man” and he asks if I need wood.  I say yes.   He asks, when do you want it? I say how about Friday or Saturday, he says; I will see what I can do. I ask what the price is and he says $170 for a cord of semi-seasoned wood.  I say okay.  Phone rings Thursday night and the wood man is calling to let me know he will be there first thing Friday morning. Early Friday morning a clean/neat trunk shows up filled above the side walls.

So how does this support my idea?  Well, the wood man’s price was not the lowest BUT, he communicated with me, there were no surprises, he delivered on time, was very professional, and I paid a good price for the value (he delivers more than the standard cord and it is all quality wood). He might be a small business, but the wood man does not promise or commit to every thing and he exceeded my expectations.  Will I order from him again, you betah!

New oil furnace: My neighbor recently had to buy a new furnace.  The furnace company explained in detail why he needed a new furnace, gave him three options he could pursue, with the pros and cons for each option.  They also gave him three customer references, an estimate of how long the project would take and of course three different prices.  Then a furnace “engineer” showed up and explained how the three options were different from an operational and efficiency point of view. Well the net was the furnace was installed in less than a day. All the other tasks that the buyer normally has to do (example, pull the permits) were done by the company. The company cleaned up everything in the basement (even areas that had nothing to do with the task).  A couple of related things from the old furnace system were upgraded AND the price still stayed the same.  Again, minimum promises and in this case far more was delivered then my neighbor had anticipated.

Travel management company:  Another neighbor has a time share that she has owned for years. Each year she and her husband “exchange” it for some other place around the world. The travel management company told her, exchange when ever and where ever, no time constraints, if you do nothing your time will automatically “banked”. Well two years ago, she received an email stating that her exchange could not be done because she was too late.  To make a long story short, the truth was that the management company made a mistake and had accidently exchanged her time share. But instead of admitting to a mistake, they dragged her on for months with mounting frustration. Finally after my neighbor hired a lawyer, the travel company miraculously found her a new exchange!   The result is that my neighbor has changed travel companies.  Reason, far too many promises and no delivery.

So if companies understand that the selling model has drastically changed and that customers are in the driver’s seat; then they must find different ways to get their order. Loyalty and customer satisfaction are two ways to retain and capture new customers. One strategy to accomplish these methods is to under promise and over deliver!  Now one might say this can be an expensive way to get the “order”.   I would argue first that getting back an existing customer that you have lost is extremely costly, and second that the perceived additional costs are actually less because you are also getting additional benefits in awareness, thought leadership and creditability; all of which are hard for your competitors to compete against.

Are your salespeople and your company still promising the moon in order to land the sale, or have you moved on to under promising and over delivering…and the resulting increase in sales and customer satisfaction?  Let me know.

RHL 11/09/10

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