The Value of Underselling


Today, with desperate retailers and sensationalistic advertising, too many companies promise more than they can deliver, with disastrous results.

Several months ago, I received some coupons for a “free sandwich” from a popular fast food chain.  One day, on a whim, I took my family in for our free sandwiches. The restaurant was littered with soiled tables and I had to step over spilled food to get to the counter and place my order.  I was greeted cordially, but when I presented my coupons for free sandwiches, the worker seemed annoyed.  He called the manager who said, “We don’t have enough sandwiches to give them away free today; we have to save them for our paying customers.  But,” he added, “you can fill out this form and the company will mail you some new coupons that you can use to get your free sandwiches later.”

I’m not one to raise a stink in public, so after the manager wiped up a clean space for me on the counter, I filled out the form.  Since I already had my family there, we bought some food, ate quickly, and left with the proverbial “bad taste” in our mouths.  We did receive the coupons—over four months later.  We have never been back.

This food chain used to be one of my favorites.  What happened?  They forgot one of the cardinal rules of business: never oversell.  In our race to make the sale, we should never be guilty of promising more than we can possibly deliver.  This tactic may increase sales temporarily, but will kill business in the long term.

Harness the power of underselling to boost repeat business and to get more new customers referred to you. Remember, a happy customer will tell three other people. But, an unhappy one will tell over 20! So, why not boost your customer’s satisfaction by delivering a little more than you promised.

For example, if you can deliver it by Monday, promise it by Tuesday and give them a pleasant surprise. Throw in an extra product or service (it doesn’t have to cost a lot; it’s the thought that counts).  Make sure each customer gets every discount to which they are entitled. Give everyone who deals with your company first class service, whether they spend a lot, or a little, or nothing at all.  Send a hand-written thank you note. Follow up with a phone call to make sure the customer is happy and the product was installed properly.

Most of all, if you can’t meet the customer’s needs, be honest and admit it up front. Nothing hurts your chances for tomorrow’s sales more than making a promise that you can’t deliver on. In today’s competitive environment, good old fashioned honesty and added value will give you the edge over flashy gimmicks and empty promises.

Success Tip: Deliver more than you sell, and then follow up to be sure your customer is happy.