Managing Expectations

Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
Article#: 4103
Author: Andy Paul

Salespeople routinely dig a hole, and throw themselves in it, after they close an order with a customer. Hereís how it plays out. You receive an order from a new customer, Main Avenue Physicians, and your instinct is to quickly move on to the next prospect before Larry, your new customer at Main Avenue Physicians, calls and asks a question that you are afraid of answering out of fear that it will cause him to change his mind.

The problem here is that even though you have an order, you havenít finished the job of selling the customer. Your selling process doesnít stop when you receive an order. There is one more very important step to take. One that can make the difference between having a ďone-and-doneĒ customer and a long-term relationship with a loyal, profitable customer.

The most important sales call you should make during the course of a sale is the first call you make to Larry after your receive Main Avenue Physiciansí order.


Sales Calculus

To answer that question letís first examine a couple immutable rules of what I call Zero-Time Sales Calculus.

Sales Calculus Rule No. 1: Your customerís expectations for your product or service grow exponentially in proportion to the number of sellers that they talked to. This rule is pretty easy to understand. In competitive sales situations, the customer has been promised so many features, advantages and benefits by so many different sellers that within 24 hours of making their decision, they have a hard time remembering which seller promised what. Instead, they have combined the best of what they heard from you and your competitors and inflated it into a big fragile balloon of unreasonable expectations that is just waiting to pop.

Sales Calculus Rule No. 2: For every one degree of positive expectation on the part of the customer, there are two degrees of letdown when the realities of the features and functions you deliver donít precisely align with their over-inflated expectations. Having your customer be unhappy with you because they believe that you overpromised and under-delivered, even though you supplied them just what they ordered, is not the ideal way to embark on a long-term relationship with them.

I see this happen with salespeople and customers all the time. Fortunately, it is easily, and completely, avoidable.

Align the customerís expectations to your commitments

Here is what you should do immediately after you have received and accepted an order from Main Avenue Physicians, your new customer:

1. Call or visit Larry, the decision maker and/or the functional decision maker who will have the responsibility for implementing, managing or otherwise using your product or service;

2. Using the customer record from your CRM system (call notes, email correspondence, quotes and proposals) take Larry step-by-step back through their buying process;

3. Highlight the key requirements Main Avenue Physicians provided you for the product they were buying and review the commitments you made regarding how your product or service would meet or exceed those requirements;

4. Review your final proposal with Larry to make sure that he precisely understands the products and features you contracted to deliver.

The primary objectives of this important sales call are to:

a) Reinforce in Larryís mind his stated requirements and how you promised to meet them;

b) Refresh his memory about the specifics of what Main Avenue Physicians ordered and why;

c) Clarify precisely what you are going to deliver and when.

Go ahead and make this call. Your goal is to align the customerís expectations with your committed deliverables to ensure that their first perception of your product or service meets or exceeds their expectations.

Donít give in to your fears

The prevailing philosophy in many sales organizations is that the absolute last thing you should do, as a salesperson, is call the customer immediately after you receive their order. Many sales managers and salespeople remain hostage to the irrational notion that you risk triggering a cancellation if you talk to the customer too soon after they have given you an order. In my work I have seen both sales managers and salespeople who believe that even though the customer has just given them the order, they only did so with great reluctance. Thus, they are afraid that if they speak with the customer after the order is received, but before it is shipped, that the customer will give in to some monstrous case of buyerís remorse that has been simmering just below the surface and ask to cancel the order. I guess that could happen. But, in more than 30 years of selling, I have never seen that happen even once.

Make the call today

The most important sales call you make will be the first call you make to your new customer after they give you an order. It is not a coincidence that it will also be the first sales call you make for the next order you will earn from this customer.

Andy Paul is author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Companyís Sales.

A frequent speaker, Andy conducts workshops and consults with B2B sales teams of all sizes and shapes to teach them how to sell more by

selling faster. Visit