What determines a good outcome vs. a bad outcome? It largely depends on your expectations.
Let’s say your local weatherperson forecasts a snowstorm tomorrow. According to her report, your area will receive five inches of snow. If you wake up and see only a light dusting on the ground, you’ll probably be thrilled (unless you really wanted to make a fort). On the other hand, if you see two feet, anger will likely sweep over you as you grab the shovel.
But what if the weatherperson had forecasted four feet of now? Suddenly two feet doesn’t seem so bad -- it actually seems good. So what makes the exact same amount of snow terrible in one circumstance and wonderful in another? Expectations.
This contains a valuable lesson for salespeople. The way in which prospects and customers perceive your product or service hinges on their expectations. That’s why it’s critical to establish expectations of the buying process, product features, and likely outcomes right from the jump.
Brittany Ransonet of the Center for Sales Strategy recounts a story of a salesperson eager to meet with a hot new prospect in this blog post. Before the meeting, the seller made copies of industry research she thinks will be useful to the buyer. However, midway through their meeting, the prospect expresses disappointment that the rep hadn’t brought ideas on how to reach younger consumers -- what the buyer was truly interested in all along.
The moral is clear. “While it only takes a moment to do, managing expectations can make or break your entire relationship with your prospect (or anyone, for that matter!)” Ransonet writes.
So at the start of your next sales engagement, make sure to ask your buyer in no uncertain terms, “What are your expectations?” This simple word can mitigate unpleasant surprises for both seller and buyer when it comes time to close.