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Productivity / Business Productivity

The cheat’s guide to exceeding expectations

“Under promise, over deliver!” is considered brilliant advice for business owners. But many people only focus on the hard work of over delivering, when it can be easier, and frankly more effective, to get better at under promising.

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A great tip from Steve Herzberg’s effective selling presentation at this year’s Flying Solo LIVE! was that ‘constantly exceeding client expectations’ was one of the keys to long-term sales success.

Let’s assume, though, that you’re good at what you do and always improving, and that your best competitors are, too. In this environment, everyone is striving for high quality at a reasonable price, making it hard to consistently deliver a significantly better product or service.

That’s where under promising can work wonders. Here are two lazy ways of exceeding expectations:

1. Deliver ahead of time not just on time

No, I’m not suggesting you bust your gut to work any faster. You can deliver ahead of schedule simply by tweaking your promises. For example before you send an email or talk to a customer:

Change “I’ll get that to you this morning”, to “I’ll get that to you this afternoon.”

Change “By the end of this week,” to “early next week.”

"Imagine if your house painter said this: 'Look, I know I quoted $3,600, but there was less preparation than I’d estimated so the bill’s only $3,250!'"

Change “Close of close of business Wednesday,” to “Thursday morning.”

You get the idea. Obviously while those are the expectations you set with the client, internally you carry on as normal to meet your original estimates on timing. People are so used to lateness and chasing tardy suppliers, exceeding expectations by delivering ahead of time makes a big impact.

Want more articles like this? Check out the productivity section.

2. Deliver under budget not just on budget

It seems to be standard practice that quotes are a minimum price. Most jobs end up with what was on the quote, plus a few extra charges on top by the end of the project – never to the joy of the customer.

But what if you delivered under budget? Imagine if your house painter said this: “Look, I know I quoted $3,600, but there was less preparation than I’d estimated so the bill’s only $3,250!” I reckon you’d fall off your chair, and the referrals and trust levels would rise.

It may not always be possible, but where you can, try and quote with a little breathing room in the budget. That way if the project expands a little you can absorb some extra costs without having to sting the client for more, while if things go well you can invoice for a little less. It may appear that you lose money that you could have easily collected, but you will gain client loyalty and respect.

You’ll notice that neither of these scenarios requires any more work at all. Just slightly smarter communications to lower client expectations and make it easier for you to constantly exceed them.

It’s lazy, but it really works.

What tips do you have that help you under promise and/or over deliver in your business? Let us know your experiences with exceeding expectations.

Peter Crocker

looks after content at Flying Solo. As part of Business Copywriter he partners with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. He's the co-author of Flying Solo Revisited: How to go it alone in business.

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