I love to drive. I have driven for hours on end for no particular reason other than to be behind the wheel. I will happily row through a six-speed manual transmission for as long as my arms and legs allow. However, if there was an accident on the 407ETR then that clutch pedal seems as though it’s the heaviest thing in the world. That’s where I’m wishing I took an Uber. Mismanaged expectation is often the key to failed relationships and lost opportunities.
I like to consider myself a straight shooter. Life is short and I don’t like to waste time either personally or professionally. I believe that strong relationships are built on being direct, and that directness can be done without being rude. More specifically, I find the easiest way to keep both parties satisfied is to set expectations at the onset of a relationship and then hold both parties accountable. At the office, we call this an Upfront Contract. To give you some examples:
1. Active Communication and Action
During the sales process a client can easily disappear - calendars fill up, emails get lost and voicemails are left unchecked. Earlier in my career, I found myself staring at an inbox or constantly checking the timestamp on a sent text message. I found myself rapidly going through the seven stages of grief. That was until I came up with a simple solution: just set the expectation early.
“What’s the best way to get in touch? I’ll promise to answer in 24 hours but what’s a comfortable amount of time on your end? Seven days? Great!”
Simple as that. We maintain an active communication with an expected timeframe for action items. No answer by day 8? Then you’re greeted with a gentle reminder on what we agreed upon.
2. No Response or “Maybe” is FAR Worse Than “No”
I’m a big boy. I can take a flat out “No”. However, some clients aren’t comfortable using the word. An attempt to be polite turns into a waste of time on both sides. It’s not a feeling I enjoy so I avoid the whole thing entirely by setting the expectation early. I simply ask that if at any point it becomes obvious that the fit may not be what you expected, just let me know. No feelings hurt. No wasted time. More often than not I’ve found that this type of conversation builds trust, and that can turn into an opportunity down the road. I’m obviously referring to Jim Camp’s Start With No. It almost guarantees that “radio silence” and the dreaded “maybe” are avoided entirely.
3. Priorities and Reasonable Timelines
When I’m getting close to the finish line I keep two things in sight: client priorities and timelines. If I’ve been diligent in my discovery process, then I’m confident that I can align my deliverables to what is important for the business. But if you need it tomorrow then we’re both walking away disappointed. How do we both walk away happy? (I’m assuming if you’ve read this far you’re going to know the answer is “setting expectations”).
We discuss what’s needed and the timeline at the beginning of the process to set a reasonable baseline (preferably documented after the call in an email!) Then we work from there and hold everyone accountable going forward. Simple, yet again!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to set expectations early during the sales process. These approaches definitely took time to master, however if done correctly they can save you countless hours in aggravation. Unless you’re stuck in traffic. In that case, you should have just taken an Uber.
Have you had a success story from managing expectations early in the sales process? Tell us in the comments.