Have you ever found yourself getting overexcited at the prospect of securing a new piece of client work or making a sale?
It is so easy to get carried away during those initial discussions and promise the earth with little regard for whether you can actually deliver. Early negotiations are vital in sealing the deal and sometimes, business owners can get a little carried away with the “can do” attitude of wanting to do the very best they can for their client or customer to get the sale.
So, when it comes down to finally putting what has been agreed down on paper (or not as is often the case), there is a sudden realization that you may not be able to deliver what was promised on time, or in some cases not be able to deliver at all!
Here are just a few things to consider:
Do I have the resources to deliver?
This could be raw materials or people, or a combination of both. In fact, for the small business the only resource could be you? If you sell a product, you may make it yourself or you may need to ensure that you have appropriate raw materials in stock. What is the turnaround time to get the raw materials from a supplier? Are you reliant on a team member undertaking the work, do they have capacity or maybe they are currently on annual leave? What other client work do you have to deliver within the timescale proposed?
Do I have the time to deliver in the timescale promised?
So as well as needing the resources, do you actually have the capacity to turn this order around? You must remember that each of your clients or customers believes that they are your most important customer. They are! You need to ensure that they feel that way and manage their expectations from the outset. There is nothing wrong in saying, “Yes I can do that for you but we have a two week wait list” or “We have a 28-day turnaround”. The most important thing here is communication and not promising to deliver something the next day, where you clearly can’t and it will only lead to disappointment.
Remember, if you deliver a service, there are only so many deliverable hours in a working day or you will end up working through the night to meet a deadline.
Do I have the expertise?
When you are starting out in business, it can be tempting to accept every piece of work that comes through the door. Sadly, there are occasions where you are clearly not qualified or simply don’t have the skills or resources to deliver. What then? Do you muddle through and deliver a poor standard of work on the basis that it’s the best you can come up with? Do you outsource and give away your profit margin, or worse, end up paying out more than your profit margin? Worse still, do you fail to deliver completely? Think carefully whether you have the required expertise and skill beforeyou agree to take the work.
Am I communicating?
Things happen. If something does crop up, or prevents you from adhering to your original delivery date, let your client or customer know. If you manage their expectations throughout the process, they are more likely to understand and delay. You may not have the capabilities within your business to have an Amazon style tracking process, but communication via email or a telephone call is the next best thing.
Do I have the agreed terms down on paper?
It is always advisable to have a good set of terms and conditions that apply to your product or service with clear delivery times set out, including payment terms and other key trading provisions. Anything that is agreed between you should be clearly set out. It is where you promise over and beyond these terms that things can get tricky. Be wary of downloading or copying other people’s terms and conditions. These should be drafted and tailored for your business.
Am I going to get paid?
Whilst outside the scope of this article, receiving prompt payment for the work you undertake is crucial for your cash flow. It is essential to charge an appropriate sum for the work you undertake, considering your expertise and the urgency in which it is required. Furthermore, does the customer or client have the ability to pay and will they pay on time? This is so often overlooked. If possible, get a percentage of the payment up front and ensure that you chase overdue payments.
Running through these few simple points before you say “yes” to the sale, can save you time, money and several sleepless nights.
Sandra Garlick is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer. She works with small business owners on planning and strategy to accelerate growth.
Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick