Ways to Eliminate Over Promising by Sales Reps

You’ve probably personally experienced the pain and frustration that results when your Sales team over promises to a customer. Nobody’s happy – especially the customer – and you are left to unravel the mess.  Luckily, there is a simple way to short-circuit such confounding situations.  Given that revenue generation is a team sport, ramp up your communication between team members.

When consulting in my role as a Fractional VP Sales, I find that companies facing over promising challenges always have poor communication between Sales and the departments responsible to deliver on those promises. 

When there is such disconnection, incorrect assumptions, misinformation and lack of mindful forethought results. It’s up to leadership to lay the groundwork for regular and open dialogue between departments as staff are often hesitant or feel it is not their place to do so.  Taking this approach institutionalizes interdepartmental communication and makes it “the way things we do things around here”.

Reaching Out

I recommend that Sales take the lead in initiating outbound communication between themselves and other departments. As they are immediately customer facing, the more timely and accurate their delivery capacity information the better positioned they will be to make appropriate commitments to buyers.

The simplest way to make connections with other departments is to have a representative from the Sales department sit in on their meetings. The frequency with which this should happen is entirely dependent upon your business. If you are in a fast moving industry where things change rapidly, maybe meeting weekly makes sense. If your industry moves slowly perhaps a monthly cadence would suffice.


The presence of Sales in another departments’ meeting must be endorsed by the leaders of each department. They should position with their team why Sales is sitting in and the outcomes both departments desire. Without this context the presence of a Salesperson in an engineering meeting may be seen as weird.

Give to Get

Have the seller arrive at the meeting prepared to share Sales related happenings or voice of the customer feedback that is relevant to the rest of the people in the room. Giving in this manner sets the stage for the seller to ask questions about what the department in question is working on & challenged with. It also sets the stage for them to be happily invited back to the next meeting.

How Sales positions the information they’re sharing affects how it’s received. If it’s positioned as “Sales can’t sell if you folks don’t do this stuff for us!” it will of course be received poorly. If it’s positioned as “here’s what we’re seeing in the market and here’s what customers are saying – what do you make of it?” it invites dialogue and problem solving, both of which are healthy.

Send the Invitation

Now it’s Sales’ turn to extend the invitation to other departments to attend their meetings. Be strategic and invite the right department at the right time. Be prepared with questions to ask and input to provide so that all parties leave the meeting having moved the ball forward.

Such regular interactive communication between Sales and production, engineering, customer success, finance [and any other department that has a stake in finding-securing-retaining happy paying customers] significantly decreases the incidence of Sales overpromising. When they understand the needs and challenges faced by their colleagues they’re better positioned to be appropriate with what they commit to with customers.

As always, there is a great deal of nuance around how to initiate interdepartmental communication across your organization. I’d be happy to discuss this further with you.  You can reach me at [email protected]

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