There seems to be an ever growing distortion of buyer reality in the business world today, and sales professionals as a whole seem to be constantly on the ropes in the expectations battle. Setting and managing buyer’s expectations is a necessary evil for every sales professional today, and one’s ability to handle this task will in many ways determine their ceiling for success. This topic is not sexy; however, it has teeth because it can mean the difference in your perceived customer service by a buyer as well as your perceived level of intestinal fortitude by your manager.
In reality there is no silver bullet answer to this issue because every buyer has different needs, hot buttons, educational backgrounds, and many other factors. This array of differential between customers in many ways deters your sales gurus from addressing the topic. Setting and managing expectations is essential to execution, and execution in a sales environment is paramount! As a result of this reality, we are going to examine the basics of setting and managing expectations. I understand that I am probably stating the obvious here; however, sometimes the obvious needs to be stated because people in the middle of the fight often cannot see the forest for the trees.
- Technology has streamlined many industries and taken the place of face to face interviews. The face to face meeting is more crucial today than it ever has been; however, we have become so focused on the technology and the need to press through volume using limited resources that we have forgotten the importance of the face to face meeting. Sales are made face to face!
- Sit down and discuss the buyer’s expectations up front before you even begin the selling process. Sun Tzu teaches us to know our opponent before we fight. Apply this to sales and know your buyer before you sell.
- Discuss the buyer’s previous transaction if they are not a first time buyer. Find out what went well and what did not. You can bet that they will be focused on what went poorly last time.
- Bring the buyer to date. Just because a buyer may be ignorant to the process does not mean they are ignorant in general. The more a buyer knows what to expect the less they will drive their own expectations. There may still be some personal expectation setting; however, you will be able to disarm the buyer with a reflection back to a previous conversation.
- Set proper expectations from the very beginning of a transaction! Continuously communicate and redirect false expectations. Do not allow a buyer to assume anything, and leave nothing unsaid because silence is acceptance. Make sure you always redirect the moment that you see an unachievable expectation being discussed.
- When you reset an expectation, meet the expectation that you set. Nothing is worse than resetting an expectation only to turn around and miss the new target. This will cost you in your customer service score at a minimum, and it could cost you the buyer!
- We are all in sales. I think that this is the primary key because many times the operational side of the transaction forgets this fact. It is extremely important for sales and sales management to remind operations of that fact to secure proper execution.
As sales people it is our job to manage expectations regardless of the industry we are in; however, there are periods of time in every industry when it seems more important than others. Dramatic change in an industry may seem to dictate a need to increase focus on setting proper expectations; however, those who only manage expectations during crisis situations are selling themselves short! The difference between a successful sales person and an unsuccessful one, regardless of industry or industry issues, is that sales person’s ability to both set and manage buyer expectations. This is the weighing mechanism that a buyer will use to judge us on our ability to execute, and execution is everything!