Let me take you back again to the simpler times of the 1980s and 1990s. When I was just a developer working in a software house, I lost count of the times I was dragged into sales presentations to add technical sales support, and watched as the salesman would happily tell the potential customer all the benefits the software product or service would bring, including features they would agree to on the fly. “Of course it will make the sky red” they would say, knowing that the product could not do that at all – but they said it to make the sale.
Once the sale was agreed, the company would then have two options – either quickly develop the sold features, or in most cases, simply hope that the customer forgot that the feature was promised.
But things have changed (good job too). Whilst I could have said “this product will halve your business costs” in the past, and might have gotten away with it (or talked my way out of it), a recent court case means you have to think about everything you say in any conversation with any existing or potential client.
Back in 2000, troubled IT service company EDS was contracted by BSkyB to provide a brand new customer services system. Just like the sales presentations that I was forced to attend, the EDS salesman got slightly carried away in the benefits that were being offered and the cost to the end user. Fast forward to 2010, and Sky has successfully sued EDS for breach of terms of the verbal contract and was awarded not only the cost of the contract, but very substantial damages.
This has changed the game for all businesses. When speaking to your customers, it was always a good policy to be honest and upfront on all aspects of delivery including timescales, costs and benefits. With this court case over, it now becomes a legal requirement which could cost you your business if you get carried away.