In a world filled with a thirsting for instantaneous indulgence, the ability to deliver satisfaction rapidly has become the benchmark standard for minimum performance.  Speed continues to spawn an extensive transformation in the perceived nature of our capacity to render astonishing products and services.  Innovation, Great Design, Quality and Execution are abandoned as orphans without the accompanying indispensable obligatory Speed that is essential in “anticipating” customers’ desires.  Every new level of achievement propels accelerated velocity towards greater expectations of tomorrow’s speed.  Customers are expecting suppliers to deliver better and faster each time.  Simply put, Faster is Better!  The “Speed of Business” continues to multiply exponentially shaping the arena for competitive control and domination.

A notable expanse of my time is captured in conference rooms escaping the issues of the day or planning for the imminent challenges of tomorrow.  The preponderance of these meetings are engaged with stimulating dialogs of problem solving, organizational planning, and resource deployment.  Occasional our minds are truly challenged by a novel or exceptional puzzle which entices and dares our experience and creativity.  Then there are those incomparable moments when, without a prescribed meeting, the casual passing of time with colleagues in unplanned banter creates breakthrough thinking.  I was fortunate to have one of these mind-sharing sessions with our two top salespeople, Ric Ketchum and Christy Bouquet, who happened to sojourn by my office almost by mistake last week.

Both Ric and Christy are consummate professionals and possess keen insights as to client drivers.  They are the real deal “Sales Pros” I speak of in my article, Lead Your Top Salespeople”. Ric had stopped by to untangle an argument within his mind.  Over the weekend, his thoughts had been engrossed with the quandary of providing his clients incomparable service commitments of Speed.  Ric had been wrestling with the idea of “Over Promising”; was the potential risk of failure worth the benefits of continually “raising the bar” for his client’s delight?  Christy rambled by and we flagged her down to partake in our fast-paced passionate conversation.  Together we zealously deliberated and fanatically grappled with the concept of what is an “Over Promise”, especially when it comes down to the Speed of Business?

Almost   30 years ago Tom Peters wrote his masterpiece, In Search of Excellence.  Peters, considered one of the most influential business minds of our time, stated his now

Tom Peters

famous Formula for Success: Under Promise and Over Deliver.  This mantra has been engrained in the minds of business managers since 1982.  The concept is to simply remain conservative and honest with what you can deliver to customers and then perform better than the expectation you have set.  The success of this set-up game leaves the customer with a sense of receiving “more than they bargained for” and results in a positive conclusion.

As our tête-à-tête tackled the “Epic Battle of Sales vs. Operations, and the importance of delivering on commitments, we fixated on the conception of internal expectation as well as external ones.  An agreed upon truth, was our unwillingness to “set the bar low” for our own internal comfort.  Such a ploy could result in 100% performance of an uncompetitive and unwanted customer solution.  If we are not asserting ourselves to be the best, the fastest, the most reliable, then what would avert us from hastily dropping behind our competitors in the contest to deliver “best in class” performance.  The traditional “play it safe” model would Diminish our Value and entrench us in the middle of the mediocre competitive pack.  Restricting our offerings to the internally perceived operational capability of the past would only hinder our ability to explore new methods and efficiencies with which to discover the breakthrough performance of the future.

Ric upheld our ability to deliver flexibility and speed set us apart from the competition in the eyes of our customers.  It established our Value out in front and set a very high bar which others struggled to climb up to.  The potential risk of failure was worth astonishing clients and pressuring the competition to keep up.  He contended we remain committed to being “First”.

Over Promise - Over Deliver

Together, we concluded the Under Promise scenario created a “false choice” and resolved that the ability to Over Promise and Over Deliver was today’s business necessity.  Continually “raising the bar” and jumping over it was the means towards impressing clients and gaining their loyalty.  And in the end our company would be stronger and better for it.  We began to dive further into the need for Speed and the differentiation it created in the marketplace.  How it could be used as a weapon to gain advantage in different selling situations.  Clearly we agreed; we were not taking our foot off of the gas to slow down.

Just as we were ready to begin further discourse on the importance of Speed, Christy hit her 30 minute “meeting wall”.  Weary of the analysis, she leaned forward, almost standing up and said, “Guys it is this simple, Speed Shows You Care!”  Wow!  I sat back in my chair astounded at such a moment of clarity.  Enthralled, I asked Christy to repeat what she just said.  She impatiently replied, “Doing something for someone ‘right away’ just means you CARE.  And they appreciate it!”  With her usual inconspicuous intuition of a client’s desires, Christy had just settled 30 years of controversy.

Leaders today are faced with complicated dilemmas regarding the use of scarce resources while providing a ROI on the effort.  It can be tempting to pursue paths of less pressure to insure the appearance of success.  However, lowering the bar to meet goals is a loser’s game guaranteed to terminate with failure.  If you are to drastically improve your company’s performance, exceed the capabilities of your competition, and deliver passionate results to your clients, you must be willing to embrace the risk of Over Promising.  And then you must attack the elevated Goal with everything you have at your disposal to make it a reality.

Your ability to Over Deliver at a “best in class” level will distinguish your team and create a competitive advantage beyond the normalized feature/benefit claims.  Leading with such an unabashed passion for being the best, inaugurates the field on which your competitors must play.  It forces them to react with distress and anxiety as they scurry to keep up with your standards.  Driven passion will always overcome panicked reaction.  Establish your commitment to “raising the bar” with you team and let them know that by being First they can expect to set the ideals of your industry which others must try and follow.  If you have the right people, they will thrive on the challenge and take pride in the achievement.

The world of business is moving fast and it expects you to keep up.  Today, the rationalization of “Under Promising” is perceived as convenient excuses for deficiency and ineptitude by your customers.  No doubt, there is great pressure in leading the charge, but as a Leader this is what you signed up for and it is what pumps-up the drive inside of you.  A Street Smart Leader is willing to challenge the conventions of the past and rise to defeat today’s fierce competition.  He is willing to take personal risk to reach breakthrough performance.  There will be those detractors who will question the ambition of your goals.  Be sure to make one thing very clear to them, “We are going to accomplish remarkable results BECAUSE WE CARE!