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January 8, 2013

Under-promise and over-deliver for a competitive advantage

guardsMy son, Alex, a college sophomore, leaves this week for a semester abroad in London – 8 weeks of classes followed by 8 weeks of an internship (which will then be followed by a couple weeks with a backpack!).  What a great opportunity!

Over coffee last weekend, I tried to give him a little “fatherly” advice – particularly about his internship.  I counseled him to:

  • Not just be another in a long line of interns who need college credit
  • Show up early and stay late
  • Ask for additional assignments
  • Don’t just be friendly… but make friends
  • Send handwritten thank you notes when it’s all over
  • And so on

My point to him was that this opportunity is not just resume fodder, but that if he delivers more than is expected, it can pay huge dividends down the road… it can lead to important introductions, job references and even job offers!

This idea of under-promising and over-delivering also applies to each of us in the day-to-day running of our businesses.  Are you doing it?  Are you surprising and delighting your clients?

Here are just a few ideas to get you thinking about it:

  • Promise to turnaround a bid (or other deliverable) in 24 hours… but do it in six.
  • Send a nice gift and handwritten thank you note after a big project (or any project for that matter).
  • Don’t charge your client for a small facet of the project.  It’s not the dollars that are important, it’s the gesture.
  • Send a bunch of pizzas to a client’s office one day for lunch… for no reason.
  • Regularly email an interesting article or white paper to clients along with a personal note.
  • Don’t just be a vendor to your clients… become a trusted advisor. Don’t just accept a project as is, but make suggestions for enhancing it based on your expertise.  Even if your client doesn’t accept your input, they’ll appreciate that you had their best interest at heart.

You never know what this kind of behavior will lead to… important introductions, testimonials or new projects!

Remember the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know… until they know how much you care.”  And by under-promising and over-delivering, you show that you do care… and in doing so, give your firm a competitive advantage that “average vendors” can’t match.

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