Service business

How to Avoid the Phantom Deliverable Dilemma in Your Service Business

As a business coach for over 25 years, I have worked with companies from a variety of different industries. And each with their own unique challenges. One that I see quite often in the service industry is the phantom deliverable dilemma. So today I wanted to talk about how to get crystal clarity on your business deliverables and how to avoid over-promises and over-deliveries.

How to define your deliverables

At first glance, it seems pretty straightforward. “David, I’m a graphic designer. So I design things for my clients.” It sounds simple enough, but in reality you can end up doing graphic design, editing, and maybe even copywriting. None of this was explicitly promised, but if you’re not careful it’s a slippery slope.

Start by starting with a written list of deliverables from the customer’s perspective: what did you promise them? What results did you promise them? Then move on to defining all of the key internal results / returns that you need to produce to deliver on your clients’ promises.

Some examples would look like this:

Once you’ve drafted it, it will be much easier and straightforward to define your scope of work for your client and contracts.

Ghost deliverables

Before launching that contract, take the time to think about what the customer might “expect” you to include in your list of deliverables. Most business owners have a long list of items that have crept in from past projects that they can use here.

If you are working on a tax return for example: will you be doing some research to find clients’ EINs if they don’t have it on hand? Will you help them find and organize their finances? Will you help them reconcile their last trimester books to make their comeback properly? These are all things your client can ask for and if you’re not careful you could end up doing a lot more work than you originally planned.

If you are a graphic designer, will you edit their copy for them? Will you create a filler copy if they don’t have enough to accommodate the number of pages? Will you take photos of their product for their brochure? All the things that could happen in a project if you’re not careful.

Use ghost deliverables as an upsell opportunity

Describing your deliverables and identifying your ghost deliverables doesn’t mean you’ll never have to research an EIN or take product photos for a brochure. What it does is put you in the driver’s seat. It lets you clearly define what the client gets for a fixed price and allows you to up-sell and charge for any additional tasks they may need to get the project to the finish line.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.