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Coaches Diary: Delivering on the Promise


Coach Olivia Stefanino helps a salesman learn to deliver on his promises.

Mark knew that his fledgling business had a serious problem. And if he didn’t get to the bottom of it quickly, he feared that his bank manager’s gentle probing would soon turn into more menacing threats regarding the repayment of his overdraft.

On paper, Mark was doing well. Each month he was winning lucrative new contracts for his sales agency. However, when it came to being paid for his efforts, Mark was finding that his clients were increasingly reticent with their chequebooks.

Determined to solve the problem, Mark had made an appointment with me. Knowing that I would listen to his story from an unbiased viewpoint, he was candid about his approach to business.

With five years’ experience as an award-winning salesman under his belt, Mark had convinced himself that he had what it takes to run his own business. Using the relatively small sum that his grandmother had left him, Mark had spent several months learning – at night school - the basics of running and managing a small business before he quit his job.

Armed with glossy brochures and a snappy website, Mark used his sales experience to win the confidence of eager new clients. Several offered him short-term contracts – giving Mark the false impression that he was a huge business success!

I asked Mark if he was allocating sufficient time and energy to service each new contract – or whether the “buzz” for him came from winning the sale rather than executing the work.

Mark looked at me questioningly, so I pressed him further: “Is there a chance that you are promising more than you can deliver?” As the penny began to drop, Mark admitted that in his previous job he had been hated by his colleagues who were often left to deal with unhappy clients who had been promised the moon by Mark just so that he could win the sales contract.

The fact that his clients were refusing to pay their bills – with a couple even threatening him with legal action – was a clear indication that Mark was not meeting his clients' expectations.

If Mark was going to make a success of his business, I explained, then he was going to have to learn to sell himself differently.

"Promise a little and deliver a lot”, I explained, “and your clients will respect your honesty and your realistic approach. By delivering more than you promise, your clients will be wowed by your performance and not only will they pay you – but they will offer you more work too. Why wouldn’t they want to have someone who can improve their sales – and therefore their bottom line – working for them on an ongoing basis?"

Together Mark and I created an eight-point strategy that would not only enable Mark to explain the benefits of using his expertise – but also provide the client with a realistic picture of how much, or how little, could be achieved.

Mark looked a little pale at the thought of reining in his enthusiasm and not creating idealistic dreams for his clients. However, I explained to Mark that by being honest and realistic at the outset, there would be no unexpected disappointments down the line for the client. And as Mark readily agreed, it is only disappointed clients who don’t want to pay.

Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach. For more information on Olivia's work and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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