As we’ve all heard a thousand times, expectations are everything. Remember when you were a child and there was something you were really looking forward to – seeing a movie, going to a birthday party, taking a trip – and it didn’t happen? Remember how disappointed you were? The same feeling can happen when that deal you’ve been working on for months falls through. But you know what? It’s equally disappointing to your prospect or client. Their expectations weren’t met. The problem they were counting on you to resolve with your product or service is still there. And now they must go back to the drawing board and start the process all over again while living with the same problem.
While these situations are unpleasant at the least, it’s important to get through them without damaging the relationship you both have worked hard to develop. After all, deals do come back around, new products and services come into being and new opportunities can present themselves at any time. That is, if you have properly prepared yourself and your client. Setting and managing client expectations throughout the sales cycle will go a long way towards that goal.
Five Tips to Help Set and Manage Client Expectations
- Stay ahead of the game. Get out in front of every challenge and potential issue you might face during the sales cycle, whether it’s meeting a deadline, overcoming a problem, or obtaining a concession that may or may not happen. Anticipate and talk to your client in advance.
- Communicate. Even in the best and most successful sales cycles, everything doesn’t always go smoothly or the way the client would like it to go. Bad news doesn’t get better with age. Be honest and direct with your prospect or client about what might (or might not) happen.
- Don’t make commitments you can’t or might not be able to keep. Whether it’s a proposal delivery date, a client referral, a pricing concession, or any of the myriad other commitments you made along the way, make sure you can deliver it. Meeting “most” commitments doesn’t cut it. Your client or prospect needs to know they can count on you to do and deliver what you say.
- Underpromise and overdeliver. Just like with meeting commitments, overachieving on your promises or deliverables will put you in a favorable light. On the other hand, delivering something less will be disappointing to your client and may damage your image. For example, delivering your proposal or quote earlier than promised, securing a larger pricing discount than requested, or throwing in free training or an extra product will pleasantly surprise your client and generate goodwill.
- Exit gracefully. A sale can go south for any number of reasons, as we all know. It might be an unsolvable technical problem, a pricing impasse, legal issues, and so on. In any event, if you’ve built the right relationship and acted with integrity throughout the sales cycle, don’t blow it now. How you handle the “breakup” may make the difference between your buyer saying “Sorry this one didn’t work out but there will be another one” and “That left a really bad taste in my mouth, not sure I want to go through that again”. If you do not earn the business, earn respect.
Relevant to Every Business
No matter what or how you sell, managing client expectations is important. Not so sure? If you’re buying a product at a retail store – clothing, a food processor, a smart phone – you expect it to perform according to what’s been communicated to you during your own buyer’s journey. Someone has set your expectations about how well it will “do the job”, how long it will last, etc. If those expectations aren’t managed – for example, “These shirts run small so you may need a larger size,” – you may be disappointed when you go to use the product.
Likewise, in the B2B world, the more complex your product or service, the longer your sales cycle. And the more complex your sales process, the more important managing client expectations becomes. There are more interactions, more pieces to the puzzle, and more opportunities to fail. Be conscientious about managing expectations.
Following these tips may not prevent you from losing a sale. But your client will know that you anticipated, communicated, and acted in a way that was in his or her best interest. And you paved the way for the next opportunity and a lasting relationship. The better prepared you are and the better you have prepared your client, the easier it will be when things don’t work out.
We Can Help
At 360 Consulting, our aim is to lead you to lasting success, building on what already works for your business and refining your sales engine to keep it running well. Coaching and communicating about managing expectations is in our DNA. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.