Expectation Setting is Key

I think the majority of the issues and aggravations we face can be addressed by effective expectation setting.

I think the majority of the issues and aggravations we face can be addressed by effective expectation setting. Think about how many problems arise when expectations aren’t set correctly. If you leave the house for work without watching the news and didn’t realize there was an accident that was going to make the commute 2x longer you’re pissed off as soon as you hit the traffic and then fuming almost the entire ride. If you watched the news and knew what to expect you wouldn’t be thrilled but at least you would be mentally prepared to deal with it. A client tells you they are going to sign the contract by a specific date and they don’t. You tell your boss you’re going to close a deal by a specific date and you don’t. A client tells you they want/need something and you assume it’s right away so you reschedule everything to get it done for them only to realize they didn’t need it until the end of the week or they were going on vacation and weren’t going to look at it until they got back. The list goes on and on about the issues caused by poor expectation setting.

Accurate expectation setting can also have a significant impact on our time management. If you haven’t read The 4 Hour Work Week I’d recommend it but I can save you the time. Effectively the book is all about expectation setting. It’s a story about a guy who was caught in the rat race and could never catch up because he always felt like he had to respond to everyone and everything immediately which ultimately made it so he never got anything done. He ended up putting an auto response on his voice mails and e-mails saying that he checked his voice mails and e-mail 2x a day and told the person listening to the message that if they had an emergency between those hours to call his cell phone. Low and behold no one called his cell phone. He realized almost nothing that he was dealing with on a daily basis needed the immediacy of a response like he thought. Through effective expectation setting he was ultimately able to condition the people he interacted with to the point where he got everything he needed to get done in 4 hours a week. 4 hours a week is a bit extreme and unrealistic if you ask me but I get the point.

To help apply this to our day to day lives in sales here are some simple things we can do to help set and meet expectations internally and externally:

  • When a client asks to send them information or for a proposal don’t tell them when you will get it to them, ask them when they want it and push back if it’s unrealistic
  • Write down (3) S.M.A.R.T goals at the beginning of the day focusing on what you want to get accomplished and meet them
  • Use ‘shared agendas’ to confirm and control meetings with clients and managers
  • Schedule a yes/no decision meeting with a client on the day they say they are going to make a decision.
  • If you know price is going to be an issue get out in front of it and talk ‘ballpark’ pricing to avoid the shock
  • Ask clients if they will treat your initial proposal as a ‘first draft’ and ask for a meeting to walk them through it
  • If you’re going to be late for a meeting tell them 5 minutes later than you think you’ll be


Good luck and happy selling.