It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a time… oh wait we wrote that novel already…. Just kidding. But it’s a great way to start a book isn’t it? It makes you ask the question, what was?? What was the best AND worst of times? Who was being affected? What, in short, was happening? Your expectations and curiosity were being piqued by a master story teller. Now if you have ever actually read past page 1 you will know that, in the tradition of many writers of his age, Mr Dickens takes his sweet time to get the story going, but once you are hooked, you revel in the style. But he builds the story, slowly and at no point are you under any illusion that this isn’t going to take a little time and effort to fully understand, and that’s where, for me, he is a genius. He lets me know, from the very first line, that this is no skop, skiet and donner book. This is a slow building of an epic narrative.
When I first read his book, at some ridiculously precocious age, (I was convinced that boys would be so impressed with my wit and learning at 13 that they would fall over themselves to date me – because who wouldn’t want to date a smart girl? Answer… apparently no 13 year old boy!), it took me awhile to adjust to the pace, but the opening of the book set me up perfectly to understand what the rest of the book would be about, and how it would be delivered.
It’s the same with our customers. You have to begin as you mean to proceed, and it’s all about managing expectations from the get go, including blinding honesty, which – for a sales person at least – can be absolutely terrifying.
We recently worked with a great young gent called Lloyd. He’s everything you would want in a savvy sales professional. Erudite, knowledgeable and passionate about what he was selling (it certainly didn’t hurt that he’s also a strapping 6’3ft basketball athlete!). But his customers didn’t trust him. They second guessed him when he made commitments, often calling for a more senior member of the team to join him in meetings when discussing implementations or pricing. Upon investigation it became clear that he was great at many aspects of his job except giving bad news or saying no. This meant that if a client pushed for an implementation date that Lloyd knew the team couldn’t meet, he would equivocate instead of just saying that it wasn’t possible. If they pushed on pricing he would promise to see what he could do, which – due to impossibly slim margins- was ultimately nothing. This undermined their faith in his ability to give a straightforward answer, which made it impossible to trust anything he said.
We believe that a core tenant of managing expectations and building a trust relationship, is honesty. We have to give the bad news, even if it jeopardises the sale that’s on the table. If we show our customers our willingness to be honest, regardless of the consequences to our pipelines, targets and commissions we lay the foundation for a much longer term partnership.
For more on how to manage expectations, and how to do so in such a way that you cement customer partnerships, check out the Avo Byte on Managing Expectations!