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Don't Push the Guarantee

Want to offer big promises to customers? It pays to tread carefully.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: What's the best way to pitch your product's guarantee to your prospects in order to get a competitive edge?

A: Over the years, I've seen many good intentions become misunderstood and misinterpreted when it comes to guarantees. They usually start with one or more of the following words and/or phrases:

  • "We totally guarantee it."
  • "If it doesn't work, you'll get your entire investment back."
  • "We promise." Refers to such things as delivery, quality, two-hour service response times and so on.

Salespeople love to make guarantees because they can--in the right circumstances--provide a competitive edge. Lots of salespeople tell themselves that guarantees work. After all, they tend to make it appear to the buying organization that there's little or no risk involved in making the decision. Most of the time, that's a far cry from the truth.

If your organization does make guarantees, it's critically important to be accurate and honest when you explain it. Consider this example: "Our widgets are guaranteed. If you don't like their performance on your production line, you'll get your entire investment back."

It sounds great, but is it accurate? Will this organization really refund all monies if the customer doesn't like the way a single widget looks? And that phrase "entire investment" is a disaster waiting to happen. What if the customer had to modify the ventilation systems in six manufacturing facilities in order to accommodate the product? Would you be willing to bet that a hungry attor-ney wouldn't be able to persuade someone, somewhere, that this expense should be included in the customer's "entire investment?"

You should never begin a relationship with a buying organization by appealing to a guarantee. Period. That means you should not attempt to work the guarantee into your ad campaign, introduction letter, telephone opening state-ment or in-person sales pitch. Appealing to a guarantee at this phase of the relationship is a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength. If your prospect should ask about a guarantee, by all means, give him all the details, but do so honestly and accurately.

In the early stages of my organization's development, I had a very strong guarantee for my services. Nowadays, I still show the guarantee on my contracts, but the language is crossed out and initialed by my COO. When the buying organization sees it crossed out, we inevitably hear this question, "Why don't you offer this guarantee any longer?" We have two responses:

  1. "Not one of our clients ever had to exercise it. So, we no longer offer it."
  2. "Our process is used by more than 1 million salespeople, and we've never had to return anyone's investment, so we no longer offer it."

As it turns out, these statements have had more impact than the guarantee ever did!

Take a moment right now to look at your biggest competitor's guarantee. Resist the temptation to make yours as good or better. Instead, ask yourself what value or service you could make available to your prospects and customers that would be of greater use to them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Additional customer training in resolving problems and troubleshooting.
  • Expanded help-desk hours and features.
  • Extending the warranty or guarantee for an additional price.

It's also a good idea to place a dollar value on each of these expanded services so that when you explain them to your prospect, you can factor that added value into your conversation.

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.

Written By

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.