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Selling Great Expectations

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I hear it from people all the time. You can hear the frustration and the sadness in their voice. Business owners constantly complain that they bend over backwards for their clients, yet it is never good enough. Why? Is it the business owners fault? Or, do clients just have unrealistic expectations?

The real issue is that business owners set themselves up for failure by giving the client unrealistic expectations during the sales process. Most businesses misunderstand the sales process. They are so focused on the sale that they fail to realize that this process will set the foundation and the expectation for the whole relationship. There are a few different ways that businesses set themselves up for failure during the sales process. However, they all come down to one thing. They fail to set proper expectations and to take control as the leader of the relationship. As a business owner or leader try to keep in mind that no one can work very well while bending over backwards. That means if you are having to bend over backwards, you will not be able to produce your best work.

You will never be able to live up to your clients expectations if you let them set the expectations. Use the sales process to tell the client what they should expect. This may seem counterintuitive because we have been taught to believe that providing great customer service is providing the client whatever they want.  The problem is that this is not realistic. Ultimately customers want the world for free and if you don’t set clear expectations they won’t be happy until they get the world (for free).

Many frustrated business owners feel like their clients don’t respect the fact that the moon was pulled down and handed to them.  What the business owners don’t realize is that without setting clear expectations the customer is expecting the whole universe.

The funny thing is that clients and customers really will be happy with much less than even the moon as long as we are honest and upfront about what we can and will provide. For example don’t just tell clients that you will build them the best widget ever. If you stay that vague they will expect a Robot that transforms into a spaceship and runs on oxygen. In other words being vague lets them image whatever they want and that imaginative (and impossible) image of excellence becomes their reality. However, if you set the expectation upfront that you will provide the best widget ever that does a, b, and c, and then go out and create an awesome a, b, and c widget your client will get exactly what they expected and will be thrilled.

The best way to insure happy clients and customers is not to sell them whatever makes them happy, but instead to tell them that what you provide is exactly what they are looking for. Some of the most successful companies in the world have people happily line up for mediocre products. How? They tell customers exactly what to expect and then make that expectation sound like the greatest thing in the world. No one goes to a fast-food restaurant expecting a fine dining experience, yet 9 out of 10 ten customers walk away happy because they got exactly what they expected. Yet, you go to a fine dining restaurant and their percentage of unhappy customers skyrockets. The difference is that the fine dining establishment promised the best quality available, but left quality up to interpretation, whereas, the fast-food restaurant simply promises fast food, and they hit the mark almost every time.

I am not suggesting that every business join the fast food model, but the fact of the matter is that we can’t expect our customers to be happy if we don’t tell them what happy is.

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