Last week, I took a sales class for female business owners.  The first thing the instructor did was ask if anyone had been the victim of a bad sales experience.  Every person in the room raised her hand.

When she probed for details, we learned that the negative situations had one thing in common.  It seemed that whenever a class member had a bad sales experience, it involved the seller promising something he wouldn’t or couldn’t deliver.

The example I shared with the class was a current one.  I bought a summer membership at our community pool precisely because it advertised a lovely baby pool to which I could escape with my active one and four year-olds. However, every time I’ve used the pool this summer, the baby area has been closed.  Too much chlorine, claimed one manager.  Debris from the storm, cited another.

I’m sure the pool director was very apologetic that his customers had been inconvenienced, and that’s nice, but the point is that I did not get what I paid for.  When the baby pool was closed, I had to swim with my kids in the adult pool, which did not afford me the control I wanted and as such, was quite stressful.  I would have rather stayed home.

The pool has lost a customer.  I will not be buying a pass next summer.

In work and in life, it is really important not to promise something you can’t deliver, because at best, it will mar your relationships.  At worse, you could lose your job.  Here are some things to think through in advance to avoid this scenario.

Consider Whether You Have the Authority To Make the Promise

Before you assure a co-worker or customer that you can get something done, make sure that your boss or someone higher-up isn’t going to step in and force you to abandon your plan.

Consider If It Depends On Fate

You don’t want your reputation to depend on if the weather holds up or traffic is light.  You are not God, so don’t lead people to believe that you control the universe.

Consider If You Have Been Set Up To Fail

Pay attention to rules or policies you are asked to enforce or deals you are asked to make.  Do not allow yourself to be put into a situation in which you have to sell an item worth 99 cents for 99 dollars.  You will let the customer down every time.

Consider a History of Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

In the interest of pleasing others, do you consistently overextend yourself and agree to more than you are capable of doing or deadlines you can’t possibly make?   Recognize that leaving people in a lurch is much worse than declining to help in the first place.

Consider If You Could Use An Extra Push

The most critical step in solving any problem is to admit that there is a problem.  Maybe you are just one of those people who mean well but needs to be constantly reminded of commitments.  If this is the case, consider a real or virtual assistant or a more detailed e-calendar that ensures timely follow up on promised items.

(Photo credit: Guarantee via Shutterstock)

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