How to Set the Right Expectations So Clients Don’t Run Your Life

setting client expectations sales

Think for a minute about your internet going out. If your service provider sends you an alert that your connection will be down for 2 hours, it’s inconvenient, but you can adjust. You’ll go to a coffee shop during that time or schedule something away from your computer. This simple notification enabled you to adjust your expectations so you didn’t waste time. Rather than sitting at the office trying to figure out, “Is the internet down for 2 minutes or 2 hours?” you planned accordingly.

The same applies to Lyft and Uber. They’ve eliminated transit anxiety because they communicate appropriate expectations. You know where the car is, when it will arrive, and how much it will cost. Their cars and drivers are practically the same as those of a taxi service, but taxi services don’t communicate well. Because Lyft and Uber do, their rides offer a drastically improved experience.

E-commerce companies run on the same principle. As long as my product arrives when I expected it too, I’m happy. But what if there were no shipment notifications? Their call volume would be off the charts with customers wondering when their orders would come.

The same is true with sales. A salesperson’s goal is to solve the client’s pain. You need to set the right expectations for when the problem will be solved. If I have a leak in my roof, my main concern is, “When will the leak stop?” If the company does what they said on the timetable they claimed, I’m satisfied.

What Expectations to Set

You know you need to set expectations, but which ones? What matters to your client? Clarifying these four basic expectations keep your clients happy so you can focus on your prospects.

Related: 4 Negotiation Skills You Need to Close More Deals

1. Delivery Time

When will the product or service arrive? Your client wants to know. Amazon sets a high bar for delivery communication. When you order, you get an anticipated delivery date. Then, you receive a shipment confirmation and notifications as the package is en route. Who actually has to call Amazon? No one.

Take your cue from Amazon and make sure your clients understand when they can expect to receive your services.

2. Delivery Method

Who physically provides the service? Is there a crew that comes out? Will you be there? Is someone else in charge? If so, make an introduction between the client and the person who will now be working with them.

A contractor, for example, sells the house but probably has a project manager carry out the day-to-day business. The contractor needs to introduce the manager to the buyer. By saying, “He knows this business in and out and will take good care of you. If you need anything, call him,” the contractor frees himself up from little issues (like the bathtub being the wrong color) and can continue finding new clients.

Who is bringing the product? Let the customer know what carrier you use (FedEx, UPS, USPS) so they can look up their own tracking information. If it arrives another way, tell them so they know what to expect and won’t need to call you with unnecessary questions.

3. Payment Time and Types

How should your client pay? Is there an automatic draft option? What forms of payment do you accept? Let them know from the beginning so they don’t have to wonder.

4. Communication and Response Times

When can your client expect to hear from you? Go ahead and set reasonable response times from the start. If you want 24 hours to respond to an email, tell them so they don’t expect a reply within five minutes of sending a message.

Related: How to Write the Perfect Sales Email

Also, find out the best way to reach your client. That way, if a problem arises, you know how to get in contact with them.

When to Set Expectations

Use these expectations to your advantage, not your detriment. Set the bulk of the expectations after the client signs the contract.

They may have unrealistic ideas about how your product or service works. If you go through a list of expectations before securing the sale, you may unintentionally create an issue that wasn’t there before.

For example, let’s say you’re about to sign a contract with a payroll service. What if the representative first said, “Just so you know, you’ll have to submit all paycheck stubs from the last three years and get employee signatures on this document and I’ll need your banking account information….”? You’d probably stop them, thinking it’s not worth the effort.

In reality, those steps may not be as complicated as they sound, but they lost the sale. Just wait until the contract is signed, then administer the expectations in a reasonable dose.  

Laying the right expectations for your clients sets both parties up for success. They’re pleased because you did what you said. You’re pleased because not only did you deliver, but you protected your time.