Under Promising And Over Delivering - The Secret Sauce Of Growing Your Small Business

We all know that it's much better to sell to existing customers than it is to go out and find new ones. The reasons for this are that it's less expensive, less time consuming and more profitable to make a second sale to an existing customer than it is to have to start the whole process again from scratch with a new client.

It's also much better for us to grow our customer base by encouraging referrals from our our existing client base, much for the same reasons as already explained.

Under Promising And Over Delivering - The Secret Sauce Of Growing Your Small Business

Two excellent ways of growing your customer base and profits - what's the catch? 

To my mind, two of the most powerful ways of building your business are as follows:

-   Repeat business from existing customers
-   Referrals from existing customers

The key point from each of these is that they both involve action from your existing customer. The 'catch' is that your customer has majority control over both of these actions and in order for either to happen, your customer has to be happy.

Therefore, as you don't have any direct control here, it's crucial that you are able to leave your customers feeling great about your business so that they can perform these important actions on your behalf. In other words, you need to do your best to influence either of these outcomes.

How can you encourage this to happen? Well, one idea that will almost guarantee that you win referrals and repeat business is the concept of under promising and over delivering. 

Under promising and over delivering - the secret sauce

I think that under promising and over delivering is the secret sauce when it comes to generating that all important repeat business from your existing customers. Here are a few tips as to how you can learn to do this. The first three are things that will harm your chances of winning referrals and repeat orders, while the last two are tips that will go a long way to making sure you do get them. 

1) Don't: Oversell just to get the deal

This is a very important one to keep in mind. Anyone who has worked in direct sales for any length of time will have seen this happen at some point - they'll either have done it themselves or they will have experienced someone else doing it. Basically (although it's very tempting to do) it's really important that you don't promise things to your prospective client, which you know you won't be able to deliver, just to get the deal signed off.

There is no better way to annoy your client and to put a stop to any future business or referrals than by not delivering according to the terms of your initial agreement. So, however great the temptation, be explicitly honest about what your client is getting when they come on board with you.

2) Don't: Mismanage Clients' Expectations

This is along similar lines to the point above, although it's more to do with how you manage the relationship after you have your new customer on board. This is to do with things like managing deadlines, making meetings and remembering phone calls and such like.

Although this might not be on the same scale as overselling just to get the deal, it's still extremely important that you learn to manage your clients expectations and that you stick to what you say.

For example, a client might want to have a daily tele-meeting to go over progress. Although you might want to do this, it might also be very impractical due to other commitments you have. Therefore, you could suggest that you hold this meeting on a Wednesday and a Friday instead. It's better to have them understand that this is how you work than it would be if you repeatedly missed calls due to being busy.

Also, if you have deadlines it's very important that you either stick to them or that you give your client plenty of advance notice that you are going to be a bit late with submission. Most people are happy to be flexible, although almost everyone will be annoyed with lapsed deadlines and no communication/explanation. 

3) Don't: Say you'll do something if you're not sure you can

Again, this is similar to the above point in terms of keeping to deadlines and other fixed arrangements. However, I wanted to add something specifically about new orders. Let's say that you are partway through a large clients' project when the call you and ask you if you can do something else for them - a 'small, quick' job. 

While it might be tempting to take on the project to please your client, you should be absolutely sure that you can do this 'small, quick job' well and on time. If you don't deliver as expected on this, you'll also run the risk of losing kudos and goodwill for the larger project when that is finished.

A bad taste in a client's mouth is a bad taste, no matter the size of the project.

4) Do: Send work prior to the agreed deadline

This is an excellent way of generating goodwill between you and your customer. One of the most important no-no's when providing a service is in missing deadlines. However, a lot of people seem to do this - unfortunately, it seems to almost be the norm nowadays.

However, this provides an opportunity for diligent people like you! If you can be someone who not only submits work on time but does so early, you will go a long way to separating yourself from the rest of the crowd. This also goes a long way to building up trust and rapport, which are essential when is comes to clients making the decision as to whether they order with you again or recommend you to a member of their professional network.

5) Do: Give 10% more than you said you would

In direct opposition to the first point above, this tip encourages you to deliver more than you said you would when you brought your new client on board. Depending on your business there are many ways in which you could do this - the important thing is to understand that no matter what you do, going the extra mile will virtually guarantee that your customer feels happy with the service they have received.

An example of this would be as follows. Let's say that you are a marketing freelancer that has been tasked with providing a standalone SEO analysis for a new client. You would do this to the best of your ability and provide a top-notch report, although you could also add a smaller report providing a detailed analysis of your clients' social media strategy.

The combination of both would leave your client feeling like they had been given a great deal and that you went over and above what you had to. Both of these will help your client decide to order with you again and to tell their existing network about you. A great win-win situation.

So, how can under promising and over delivering help you successfully grow your business?

The answer to this is simple: under promising and over delivering helps you to grow your business because it naturally encourages your clients to place another order and to also recommend you to their own networks. Both of these methods (referrals and repeat business) are proven to be excellent ways of growing any business - if not the best ways.

In terms of dealing with your clients, here is a recap of the main points to keep in mind when trying to influence these outcomes:

Don't: Oversell just to get the deal
Don't: Mismanage clients' expectations
Don't: Say you'll do something if you're not sure you can
Do: Send work prior to the agreed deadline
Do: Give 10% more than you said you would

I hope that helps and please contact me through Twitter (link below) if you have any question or would like to add anything :-)

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Got a nagging marketing question? Ask me here.

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Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.