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Should You Make Guarantees?

Your competition may be making certain claims, but that doesn't mean you have to do the same.
October 13, 2003
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/64836

Q: My competition has some unbelievable guarantees. I am loosing too many deals on their ability to reverse the risk of the purchase. How can I compete at that level?

A: This question is an important one, and there's a lesson in it for all of us to learn.

Salespeople love to make guarantees. Why? Because they think it gives them the competitive edge that will move prospects over the fence they've been straddling. Actually, guarantees work because they make buyers feel like there's no risk involved in making the decision. The logic is this: Move the prospect by removing the risk.

Sometimes, guarantees deliver great results for you and your company; yet other times, they backfire. So if you've decided to make guarantees to potential customers, you must make a habit of reading the fine print backwards and forwards.

There's a right way and a wrong way to tell buyers about your business's guarantees. Consider this disaster waiting to happen: "Our widgets are guaranteed. If you don't like what you see when they're installed, you'll get your entire investment back."

What if the customer doesn't like the way a single widget looks? And regarding the term "entire investment," what if your customer had to modify the ventilation system in six facilities in order to accommodate your product? A hungry lawyer could probably persuade someone, somewhere, that this expense should be included in the customer's "entire investment."

Your company has no doubt spent a lot of money on legal brainpower to develop the language of your guarantee. Read it. Then read it again and make notes-do whatever it takes to know every detail. And when you talk about the guarantee to buyers, avoid sweeping statements that could potentially get you into trouble. Stick with something like this: "Our widgets are guaranteed. Let me go over our policy with you when we're finished here, and then I'll give you a copy of your own so you can review it."

There are times when you shouldn't use the term "guarantee," at least not right away. Appealing to a guarantee in the beginning of your relationship with a prospect is a sign of weakness. What, your prospect may ask, is that guarantee meant to compensate for?

If your prospect asks about a guarantee, of course you should give him or her all the details. Other than that, save references to your guarantee for the final stages of the sales process, when you're talking specifics about the money your buyer will be spending.

Credibility Factor
1. Stay away from the words "I think." You can leave prospects swearing you've told them something you haven't really told them. The phrase, "I think X is the case," may be interpreted as, "I am virtually certain that X is the case." Usually this is not what you mean, so don't say, "I think."

2. Highlight real service-based commitments. Service is a sure way to establish and reinforce your credibility. Review and consider all the specifics regarding your business's after-sale service commitments. Don't ever make guarantees you aren't absolutely certain about. Many buyers are sensitive about service issues, so make sure the customer gets a good look at exactly what you offer. Put it into writing, pass it onto the prospect, and see what happens.

3. Broadcast the value you deliver. Broadcasting means telling people about verifiable success stories. When you broadcast that your organization helped Joe Smith reduce his overhead by 12 percent while increasing overall effectiveness, the implication is that your prospect should feel free to call Joe Smith and confirm your success story.

If you're going to use this approach, it's essential you take the following steps:

  1. Work with current customers to establish exactly how well your solution is actually working. If something isn't performing the way it should, develop and implement a solution.
  2. Once you isolate customers who are thrilled with what your business has accomplished for them, you have to quantify the level of your success. Get real, verifiable numbers on what you've done for your customer. You may have to ask the customer for raw data, analyze it yourself and submit it to your customer for approval. It's worth the effort!
  3. Let your contact know you plan to use the information to reach out to other customers. Don't worry-if you're delivering on your promises, the vast majority of your contacts won't mind at all.

Make the commitment. Make the calls. Do the digging. Make quantifying your results a part of your account reviews. Then use the most compelling results to demonstrate just how special and reliable you and your business really are. Don't skimp on any of these steps. Remember: Your credibility is at stake, and your credibility can make or break your success with existing, as well as potential, customers.

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer. For additional information on his speeches and his newest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO or visit www.sellingtovito.com.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.