Stop Making “Non-Promises”

A few weeks ago, I invited Marc–an IT consultant who had worked with me for a few months last year and gotten some very good results–to lunch.  We set the date, and then Marc said: “I’ll be there…unless someone calls me with work that needs to be done that day…I mean, business comes first, right?”

After I hung up the phone I thought about how Marc’s response to my lunch invitation actually hinted at the work we both knew still needed to be done: Marc’s agreements were often statements without substance.  In this case, his loose commitment was actually a non-promise.

Marc would tell clients he could probably finish a project in a day, even when he knew that was impossible.  He told creditors that he’d try to have them paid by Friday, and the check wouldn’t be sent until the next week.

I coach my clients to “under-promise and over-deliver”.  Marc was so worried about pleasing his clients and vendors that he had taken to over-promising and under-delivering—making shaky agreements up front, and ultimately, not being able to deliver on them.

But this isn’t just an issue of using the wrong tactics–it’s an issue of integrity.  An old sales mantra goes: “Clients need to know you, like you, and trust you in order to agree to do business with you.”  The “trust” part of that know-like-trust triad is based, in large part, on a sense that you will keep your promises.

Marc needed to follow this simple rule:

Make only promises you can keep…and keep them.

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Non-promises, like “I’ll see you for lunch, unless something else comes up,” could actually be insulting (how important is that lunch with me?), but more importantly, they violate the first part of this rule.  I have no doubt that if Marc is making non-promises to me, he’s making them to clients, as well.

If you want to grow your practice faster, make promises you can keep…and keep them.  Once you have that down, you can keep REACHING…

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