One of the biggest mistakes you can make in sales has nothing to do with losing the deal...
In fact, you won't even see the problem until you start to work with the customer. It is only then that things get bad...
The mistake is misaligned expectations.
It starts in the sales process, and it affects everything after.
In this article, I am going to share the experience we had with Lead Cookie early on, and how we fixed that by setting better expectations.
The key to happy customers - Aligned expectations
"One of the most difficult challenges in customer success is to set, and consistently reset customer expectations" - From the book Customer Success
This concept from the Customer Success book was an absolute game changer for Lead Cookie.
Prior to reading this book and understanding this fundamental concept, I just made sales. I never thought too much about customer expectations, and that lead to problems.
If you don't set your expectations, your customers will
Before we starting setting expectations with our customers, I got really frustrated...
Customers would come to us with these crazy expectations.
Customer: "It's been 30 days and I haven't closed any deals"
Me: "Well how long is your average sales cycle?"
Customer: "About 6-9 months"
That sounds kind of ridiculous when you read it like that, but I had this happen over and over again.
If I didn't set the expectations for the customer on what they should expect, they would just jump to completely illogical conclusions on their own.
We all have unrealistic expectations when we are out of our expertise
This may seem ridiculous, but we all do it when we are buying something in an area outside of our expertise.
Recently I booked a consult with a chiropractor because I have an injury with my back. I went to the session, and I left and I didn't see much improvement.
I actually wrote to the chiropractor complaining at my lack of improvement...
He got pissed and frustrated with me.
I got pissed and frustrated with him.
And it was only after I looked back on this experience to reflect did I realize what happened.
The Chiropractor set zero expectations with me on how long it would take me to heal.
So I assumed "One session and I will have all the answers to heal."
I don't know anything about his world, so I jumped to crazy conclusions.
Everyone does it when they are outside of their area of expertise.
Expectations are not static
Another key thing to realize is that customer expectations are not static. As they use your product or service, their expectations will start to stray over time.
You may say something in onboarding, and then have to reiterate it 2 weeks later, and 4 weeks later.
As the customer uses and experiences your service, their expectations and understanding of it will change, and so will their expectations if you don't keep them aligned.
How to align expectations
The question then becomes "How do I set and align expectations with my customers?"
Well here are a few ways that we do that.
During the Sales Call
Previously I published my sales call script live. There are a few key points in the script where I set expectations about what we deliver, the numbers to expect, and everything the customer needs to utilize our service.
I am transparent about these big picture expectations up front.
Before the close
Once we have a written or verbal commitment from a customer, I send them an email with all of their next steps.
The first step in the entire sequence, BEFORE THEY EVEN PAY, is to visit an onboarding page that is 100% to set their expectations. The line in the email says the following:
Watch this pre-onboarding Video
Before you fully commit, please watch https://www.leadcookie.com/onboarding to ensure you are aligned on expectations and understand what our service will be providing.
During the onboarding call
One of the final questions we ask in our onboarding call is:
"Knowing what you know about your sales process, if you were to look out 3 months from now, what would be success for you with this engagement? What would you want in terms of calls held or deals closed?"
This question is absolutely crucial because we once again must align with the customers expectations.
While we may have set them during the sales call, this is our final chance before starting the service to realign and get specific.
If a customer throws out an unrealistic expectation (which they often do) then we simply must realign that with what we believe is a realistic expectation of results for their campaign.
This moment is crucial to make sure you are on the same page with what their desired outcome is.
During check-in calls
With our service we also have regular check-in calls with our customers. Or for some customers we simply connect and discuss via email.
Either way, these are great times to align with customers and see how things are going for them now that they are actually starting to see results.
Are they happy with the engagement?
Are we on a path to their desired outcome?
If not, then we need to figure out what we can do to improve the situation and move them toward their goal.
The Bottom Line
Setting customer expectations is more important than I can even explain. Before doing this, it felt like we were constantly being attacked by our customers.Once we did this, it aligned our relationships, reduced churn and made for a better customer experience and a more profitable company.
Don't under-estimate the power of setting expectations.
And if you want to study more on this topic I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Customer Success. The book is written mainly for SaaS companies but is relevant to anyone who signs customers onto recurring retainers.