When somebody calls in and starts asking questions about your product or service, they usually want you to be “the man”. They’re hoping your product or service is the answer to their problems. They really don’t want to shop around. They want to buy! Managing expectations will help you keep them in this frame of mind.
If we approach the sale with a perspective of the buyer wanting “us” to be their solution, it can simplify the sales process. When you really believe this to be true, you’re not “afraid” of losing the deal and you’re not so concerned about the competition (although it’s wise to understand your competitor). You can stop selling and start conversing.
You can break down a sales conversation into the following four areas:
- Be very clear about what their problem is and what it is they need.
- Explain how you can solve their problem and confirm they see your offering as a solution also.
- Justify the cost value of your offering in the buyers mind.
- and – Manage expectations.
The first three areas are covered over and over in most sales trainings. The fourth area of Managing Expectations can often be assumed accomplished by many sales people. When in fact, it’s not. It does require a disciplined approach to manage expectations consistently. How well or poorly you manage your buyer’s expectations will dictate how smooth or rough the sales process is for you and your buyer. Ultimately, it has an impact on how many prospects will buy from you.
It’s very simple, but like many simple things, they can be taken for granted. Some might say we’re setting expectations, but there’s a difference between setting expectations and managing expectations. When you have authority in a situation or permission from your prospect, you can set expectations. In most new selling situations you’re not given the authority to set expectations and if you receive permission, the permission can easily be forgotten in a new buyer/seller relationship. The process of managing expectations includes frequent and consistent confirmation of the buyers acceptance of the upcoming steps in the sales process.
Most upsets in life are tied to unfulfilled expectations. When you manage expectations you eliminate upset and frustrations associated with your sales process and presentation.
Here are four steps to follow for each sales meeting.
1. Explain the agenda or process and include the buyer’s expectations
At the beginning of each meeting explain what will be covered AND ask if there is anything they were expecting that you have not mentioned. If they have items they want covered include them in your meeting. In a first meeting you want to provide a high level description of your sales process and confirm their acceptance or expose any resistance to the process. Managing expectations requires you to be open to making changes in your expectations without completely diverting from what you know works. Remember, this is about managing, not setting expectations. You want their buy-in with each next step.
2. Gain permission to proceed
At the end of each meeting ask if they would like to proceed with the process. Always give them the opportunity to opt-out. An early no is better than a late no.
3. Explain the next step and review the remainder of the process
If they want to continue, explain what will happen in between meetings and what will be needed for the next meeting. Then review what you’ve accomplished in your sales process to this point and what steps are still remaining.
4. Confirm understanding and expectations
Always follow up with an email or letter of understanding regarding the meeting you just completed and what is expected next. Ask for their confirmation and or correction in the message.
Repeat the four steps over at the next meeting.
In order to set a clear expectation of the buying process, it’s important to have your process defined. If you haven’t already done so, take the time to document the process you and the buyer go through on the way to their buying decision.
Here’s is an example of the process at Sales Manager Now:
- Gain a high level understanding of the prospective clients dilemma and hopes for our services
- Share how we work and explain our process
- Ask if they would like to take the next step and have a discovery meeting
- Send letter of understanding
- Conduct discovery meeting
- Decide if we feel we can be of help, if we can, ask if they would like to continue in the process
- Send amended letter of understanding for their confirmation
- Prepare and send over proposal for review which includes approach and fees
- Meet to discuss proposal and approach
- A decision is made to move forward or not
- If yes, send over agreement and get to work
Your process might be more or less complicated. What’s important is to follow it consistently and allow for slight alterations if the buyer has valid ideas that help them make a decision. When you use the steps in managing expectations you will be allowing your buyers expectations to work together with yours, which leads to a much more enjoyable buying experience for everyone. Which in the end gives the buyer exactly what they want, which is to buy from you.