Setting Expectations, or the Upfront Contract

I was recently reviewing one of my old posts and noticed that I had touched on the subject of setting expectations but never followed up on it. So this week, let’s talk about setting expectations in sales.

This is most important in the early stages of engagement; cold calling, the first meeting, etc. For example, when I make a cold call, I clearly state that I’m only going to take 30 seconds of the client’s time – and then I stick to it! Setting this expectation upfront accomplishes two things: it puts the prospect at ease, knowing that you are only going to take up a short amount of his/her time, and it starts to build trust- provided you stick to your commitment.

When meeting a prospective client for the first time, it is also important to have clear expectations upfront. In my previous post (Know What You’re Selling), where I first mentioned setting expectations, my lunch-mate was clearly hoping to sign me on as a client for his financial services business- while I only intended to thank him for some information he had provided to me. I had already told him I wanted to take him to lunch as thank you – but he clearly still had other ideas on his mind. In the end, our lunch was fine, as it turned into a coaching session- but had we been on the same page about the intention of our meeting, it would have been a much more comfortable and enjoyable meal.

To keep you from making the mistake above, or even just to maximize the effectiveness of the meeting, it’s very important that both you and the prospective client are on the same page. For example: if you require information from your prospect in order to complete your agenda – isn’t it better to get that clarified upfront instead of wasting time during the meeting for the client to find the information? Or worse yet, find out that the client is not willing to share the information?

It also shows professionalism – by clearly stating expectations upfront, you show your prospect that you know what you’re doing and won’t just be fumbling through things during the meeting.

As you can clearly see, by doing a little work upfront, you can: put your prospect at ease, and maximize the effectiveness of initial engagements and demonstrate your professionalism – seems like a no-brainer, right? It is shocking how seldom this is actually done, or worse yet, promises are made only to be broken.

Here is one quick story about honesty to close this post out. I was recently contacted via phone by someone trying to sell me something (he didn’t give him enough time to find out what). He did clearly set a time expectation (90 seconds), but the problem was that he lied about who he was and what he was doing. He told me that he was a college student working on a research project. However, as soon as I asked him some very simple questions, he froze up. He clearly was not a college student (especially since I could hear the call center in the background).

If you follow my posts, you will hopefully notice a common thread amongst them – Trust! That is simply the only thing we are selling. If you ever find yourself in a position where you believe you can not be completely honest – do yourself and your career a favor and remove yourself from the situation.

Until next time…

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