How to Manage Your Client’s Expectations

It’s not easy to manage your client’s expectations. They want to buy a better outcome; they don’t normally want to buy the pain that comes along with changing enough to obtain that better outcome.

Here’s how you get into trouble.

Leaving Out the Ugly Parts

To win, you have to sell that you can get a better outcome. But telling your client how difficult it is to get them that outcome doesn’t make them feel good about buying from you, especially when they have to do a large part of the heavy lifting.

You know that some of your competitors will suggest that they can get a better outcome—and they won’t tell your dream client how difficult it will be to get them those outcomes. Some will even tell your prospect that they can get them the outcome they seek for an amount lower than they are currently investing.

You know this is true. So you leave out the ugly parts, the parts where your dream client has to spend more, to change some of the ways they do business, or to change in some other way that is difficult for them.

Enter the vicious cycle.

The Vicious Cycle

Your dream clients want to believe the fairy tale that they can have everything they want if only they choose the right partner, preferably one with the lowest price. When they hear that they can have it all, they buy the lie, only to be disappointed. They try again, only to be let down again.

Then you show up with the promises they’ve heard before. Any wonder they’re skeptical? Yet, they really want to believe; it would make everything easier.

Without telling your dream client what they really need to do to get the outcomes they want, you become another failure in a long line of failed partnerships. So you try managing expectations after the fact.

Believing you can win the opportunity and then unveil all that it will really take to produce results is a bad idea too. Managing expectations after the fact doesn’t help you build good client relationships, especially because you are sharing information that you knew or should have known. They sometimes regret not choosing your competitor, the one that didn’t tell them about what would really have to change to get the outcome they need.

And now you were dishonest. It was a lie of omission.

There Is Only One Way Out

The only way out is to tell the truth. You have to manage expectations from the start. But not to worry, many of your dream clients are ready for someone to speak the truth.

No, they’re not going to jump for joy when you tell them they have to invest more or make sweeping and dramatic changes. But they are going to know that you are honest, and if you prove you care, they’re going to know that you will do what you promise, and you will help them get the results they need.

The way you manage expectations is by being honest and upfront from the very beginning. You don’t make difficult outcomes sound easy, you discuss your constraints and your client’s, and you talk about the investments in time and effort it will take to both of you to succeed.


How do you manage your client’s expectations?

What is the problem with making bold, audacious, and inspiring promises without explaining what it will take to make those promises a reality?

Should you tell your dream client what they want to hear in order to win the deal?

How do you share the reality of your client’s constraints and still win their business?

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Filed under: Sales

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