Don't Push the Guarantee

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

By Tony Parinello

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

A:Over the years, I've seen many good intentions becomemisunderstood and misinterpreted when it comes to guarantees. Theyusually start with one or more of the following words and/orphrases:

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

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

If your organization does make guarantees, it's criticallyimportant to be accurate and honest when you explain it. Considerthis example: "Our widgets are guaranteed. If you don'tlike their performance on your production line, you'll get yourentire investment back."

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

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

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

  1. "Not one of our clients ever had to exercise it. So, we nolonger 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 nolonger offer it."

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

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

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

It's also a good idea to place a dollar value on each ofthese expanded services so that when you explain them to yourprospect, you can factor that added value into yourconversation.

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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