Should You Make Guarantees?

Your competition may be making certain claims, but that doesn't mean you have to do the same.

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: Mycompetition has some unbelievable guarantees. I am loosing too manydeals on their ability to reverse the risk of the purchase. How canI compete at that level?

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

Salespeople love to make guarantees. Why? Because they think itgives them the competitive edge that will move prospects over thefence they've been straddling. Actually, guarantees workbecause they make buyers feel like there's no risk involved inmaking the decision. The logic is this: Move the prospect byremoving the risk.

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

There's a right way and a wrong way to tell buyers aboutyour business's guarantees. Consider this disaster waiting tohappen: "Our widgets are guaranteed. If you don't likewhat you see when they're installed, you'll get your entireinvestment back."

What if the customer doesn't like the way a single widgetlooks? And regarding the term "entire investment," whatif your customer had to modify the ventilation system in sixfacilities in order to accommodate your product? A hungry lawyercould probably persuade someone, somewhere, that this expenseshould be included in the customer's "entireinvestment."

Your company has no doubt spent a lot of money on legalbrainpower to develop the language of your guarantee. Read it. Thenread it again and make notes-do whatever it takes to know everydetail. And when you talk about the guarantee to buyers, avoidsweeping 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 reviewit."

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

If your prospect asks about a guarantee, of course you shouldgive him or her all the details. Other than that, save referencesto your guarantee for the final stages of the sales process, whenyou're talking specifics about the money your buyer will bespending.

1. Stay away from the words "I think." You canleave prospects swearing you've told them something youhaven't really told them. The phrase, "I think X is thecase," may be interpreted as, "I am virtually certainthat X is the case." Usually this is not what you mean, sodon't say, "I think."

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

3. Broadcast the value you deliver. Broadcasting meanstelling people about verifiable success stories. When you broadcastthat your organization helped Joe Smith reduce his overhead by 12percent while increasing overall effectiveness, the implication isthat your prospect should feel free to call Joe Smith and confirmyour success story.

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

  1. Work with current customers to establish exactly how well yoursolution is actually working. If something isn't performing theway it should, develop and implement a solution.
  2. Once you isolate customers who are thrilled with what yourbusiness has accomplished for them, you have to quantify the levelof your success. Get real, verifiable numbers on what you'vedone for your customer. You may have to ask the customer for rawdata, analyze it yourself and submit it to your customer forapproval. It's worth the effort!
  3. Let your contact know you plan to use the information to reachout to other customers. Don't worry-if you're delivering onyour promises, the vast majority of your contacts won't mind atall.

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

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches and hisnewest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO orvisit

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

Tony Parinello

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.

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