What is the real difference between actual value and the illusion of value? How can you tell the difference when you are an unsuspecting customer who is looking to outsource a service or product? This is a very common dilemma, especially in a creative economy. The truth is, I have seen countless times in which service or product providers will promise a unicorn to their clients. What’s worse, clients end up paying a premium for a horse with a fancy horn glued to its head. Sound familiar?
This is not a post meant to pass judgement on either service providers or customers. This is a post dedicated to make you wonder why is it that [a great number of] service providers fall short when it comes to promise AND deliver real value, and why customers fail to perceive it.
I am a great fan of the now oldie-but-goodie series “Friends”. I remember this one particular episode in which Joey- played by Matt Le Blanc- includes French as one of his spoken languages in his résumé. He is quickly asked to audition for a role that is spoken in French 100% of the time. He then panics, and asks Phoebe – played by Lisa Kudrow- to help him learn just enough French before his big audition. Phoebe asks, “well, why do you include French in your résumé if you don’t speak a word of it?”. Joey is fast to respond, “you always include everything in your résumé; even if you don’t know how to do it. If it gets you the part, then you’ll have time to learn and deliver”, or something along those lines.
So many companies and service providers do this on a daily basis. In my personal experience (at least in the software and online marketing industries), I’ve seen sales teams promise wonders to their clients, and then go back to the company and say “well, the client wants this one unicorn, you see? Can we make it happen in 3 months time?”. It is then when engineers, marketers, and other team members roll their eyes and pray for a miracle.
General opinion may say that sales teams want to get to their quotas, and they want a juicy commission at the end of the day. However, let’s not underestimate (or sub-estimate) sales. After all, how in the world would they know just how far they can go on promising something? And that’s what brings me to a very powerful question: where’s the communication channel between sales and the rest of the company? Who is playing deaf and just wants to push their own agenda? Have we all stopped and think about how we are ALL actually a single team? I’m not saying that everyone is out for their own benefit, I’m saying that no one has stopped to really answer the question.
Sales teams need to get to know their product or service thoroughly. They need to sit down with others in their company and really learn their stuff. Just how much can the product or service do? What can it do and what can’t it do? How long does it take for the company to deliver on any given promise? How can you make a boundary clear enough so that you can create reasonable expectations for your customers? How can you really inform your customer about actual value and not just an illusion waiting to be busted?
As for the customers, since you are hiring an external firm to deliver a product or service that is not in fact your core value, how can you possibly know if what the firm is promising is real value? It may be easier to notice the value in tangible goods than in intangible ones. The best you can do as a customer is to do your homework and due diligence before compromising.
It’s amazing how sometimes we can fool ourselves thinking that we can deliver something based on our existing knowledge. Being humble enough to know that limitations exist give way to actual learning. And in the long run, as a provider, you’ll be able to deliver real value, and not just an illusion. What do you think?