Setting Expectations for Better Sales Conversations

If you listen to any of the productivity experts out there, one of the things that they always mention is to not agree to a meeting without a clear agenda in place. This idea is nothing new; high performers have been doing this since the dawn of time.

And yet…

So many salespeople don’t really know how to set expectations for what a call or meeting is going to look like. And we’re not just talking about putting it in the calendar, (also important though, more on that here). We’re talking about making sure the other person knows what is going to be discussed, what the next steps will be, and that honesty is the most important thing. 

One of the reasons why people avoid and lie to salespeople is that they expect to be badgered and sold something they don’t want. Imagine how your cold calling would improve if you didn’t give people the chance to jump to this conclusion!

Knowing how to set expectations for a sales conversation will increase your communication skills in all areas, save you SO much time and energy, and help you close more sales. 

So, how do we do this? Even better, how do we do this without feeling pushy or feeling like we’re just using another sales tactic?

In short, it’s about being honest and genuine. The questions or topics you are bringing to the table are important because you really care and want to help. Be honest about it if you’re not the right person for the job. Be genuine about listening and making sure they’ll benefit as much from you as you will from them. And let them know that some of the questions you have to ask might be uncomfortable, (i.e. asking about their budget), for both you and them. 

Setting expectations is all about comfort and trust. 

So take a few minutes, read some of my tips on how I do this, and if you still feel a little lost or uncomfortable trying it yourself, contact me. I promise, I’ll answer within 24 hours. (See what I did there, setting expectations!)  

First, remind them of how long the call/meeting will take and make sure they still have enough time. Your first expectation is for how long the call will last and that you will be asking lots of questions. This is also a good moment to see what their mood is like and hopefully try and get some insight as to what kind of personality they have. 

The next and most important thing you should do with any prospect is to make sure they feel comfortable telling you no. As important as it is for us to be able to say no to our clients, it’s just as important for our prospects to feel okay saying no to us. Nobody wants to be strung along, either waiting for some event that needs to happen before they’ll give you their money or waiting for any answer at all. 

“Do you agree to tell me no if you don’t think this is going to be a good fit?”

Phrase it however you want, just make sure you get the point across that you’re not going to go cry in a corner because they don’t want to do business with you. Even if you do go cry in a corner later, don’t let them see that. This is also a chance for you to be able to set the expectation that they might not be a good fit for you. You should want it to be a good fit for both sides; that’s why you’ll ask so many questions. 

“Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions and see if you have any of the same concerns that some of my clients do? If you do, then are you okay if I tell you how I help those clients?” 

Most of the time, people will say yes to both. What do they have to lose? Especially since they already know that they can comfortably tell you no. 

They aren’t getting “sold” and you’re able to qualify if there’s a good fit on both sides. Win-win. 

And that’s how sales should be. 

What it should not be is, “Hey, look at these shiny features and benefits. I know I’m the best for you, and I know you want to buy this, so I am going to write it up. Cash or charge?”

Probably not quite like that, but you get the gist. 

Leading the conversation by going on and on about what you have to offer isn’t nearly as helpful for the client as you think. You have no idea if they care at all about your best sellers or most important and newest features. Also, there’s no way to build trust and rapport if you’re doing all the talking and not asking any questions. 

Seriously, stop it. 

I know, easier said than done. When you’ve never been told that this is the worst way to sell to people, any other way is going to be completely foreign. And the sales industry and sales culture as a whole don’t do a great job of curbing this horrible sales practice with:

  • the scripts some salespeople have to use 
  • the short time limit they’re given to talk to people 
  • or the urgency they have to close a sale.

But to see real success and keep from pulling your hair out on a daily basis, you should probably try setting all of that aside when you’re with a prospect. You need to be genuine, ask necessary questions, actively listen to their answers, and prove your trustworthiness by sticking to your expectations. 

That includes respecting their answer if they say you or your product/service aren’t a good fit for them. Just remember, every ‘no’ usually only means no for now, not no forever. If everything else about the conversation went well, and you built that trust and rapport, they’ll keep you in mind if that ever changes. 

At the end of the day, better communication is the key to more trust from your clients. And I know I’ve said it a million times, but trust leads to better and more fruitful business relationships. That trust starts with setting expectations. 

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