Think for a moment about your last unhappy customer. Maybe it was a client who didn’t see the results they wanted or a customer who had a bad experience. Without getting defensive, think about the root of their dissatisfaction. Was it that you didn’t deliver what was promised or was what you promised unrealistic?
As an experienced business consultant I see issues with client expectations all the time. Businesses don’t want to say ‘no’ to customers during the sales process. They don’t want to tell a new potential customer the truth about how long, how difficult or how costly it will be to achieve the desired result. They want to say ‘yes’ and get the new customer to say ‘yes’ so they overpromise. Somewhere down the road, your customer will question the promises you made and start to wonder why their expectations haven’t been met. The natural reaction to losing clients is to assume the problem was with them—they didn’t give you enough time or enough budget and they wanted the world in return, right? But the reality is that the problem may not be your clients’. The problem may be yours and it probably started with some lofty promises made by your sales team to close the deal.
Overpromising might close more sales but it will cost you in the long run. Your business will become a leaky bucket that you will work twice as hard to fill as clients continually drain from the bottom. Retaining more business means effectively setting and managing your clients’ expectations. This all starts with the sales team.
You may have heard me say this a few times but it’s an important point that bears repeating: You are in business to solve problems, not sell products. If your sales people are focusing solely on your product during the sales process then they are having the wrong conversations. Your customers don’t care how great your product is—they want to know how you will solve their problems and to what degree.
Setting and managing the expectations of your clients begins with the sales process and continues with communication during the engagement. Take a good, hard look at your sales and client communication processes and ask yourself: Are we accurately setting the client’s expectations? If not, you are setting yourself up for failure to meet those expectations. When I engage with a new business consultation client—especially when I am acting as a sales consultant—I advise my clients to add the following tasks to their process:
Some great ways to identify improvements in your process include:
Why did your last client leave you? What were their reasons?
Howard Shore is a business growth expert that works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or email@example.com.