Creating Expectations: Building a Foundation for Success

I recently participated in what was potentially a very challenging meeting with an excellent prospect. The design of the plant we had been schematically developing was presumably well over their budget.

Yet, the team working on this accomplished a number of important tasks in the development of this opportunity. Within these tasks lies a process that is the foundation for greater success in sales and, yes, in relationships in general.

First, they mapped out the process from start to finish, making sure they understood the process and the perspective needed at each milestone, which then reminded them at each milestone how to interpret the results of the work.

Second, they spared no detail in developing the report. This means that they were able to tell the prospect what was included and, just as importantly, what was not. This reinforced the credibility of the work done.

Finally, they presented their materials with complete consistency with what had been already presented and discussed.

In effect, they:

  1. Told the prospect what they were going to do – along with the associated benefits and limitations
  2. They did it
  3. They told and showed them what they did – and reminded them of the associated benefits and limitations

They created expectations and fulfilled them. Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? It's not. It takes extra effort for a team to go the next step beyond what they do technically, and ensure that what they do is understood and correctly interpreted by individuals who do not do what we do for a living.

It takes Emotional Intelligence to anticipate the prospect’s limitations and determine what is needed to ensure that our work is received and understood accurately.

It also takes patience. Patience in working with a client is often an underestimated quality – and I use the word “quality” very intentionally. Patience in dealing with a client is critical. They are the reason we are in business and they do not have the understanding and skills that we have. If they did, they would not need us. When we exhibit that “quality” of patience, the more receptive we are, and the more a client wants to work with us. We are earning their trust and their business. Patience is demonstrated by active listening and delivering what was heard and learned.

Creating and then fulfilling these expectations takes a full team effort and it is a beautiful thing when it all comes together. The more that “beautiful thing” happens, the more success we will find in our sales and project implementation efforts. The more success we have as a company.

Let me be clear, it is not a rare thing to see the pieces and parts happen as they are planned to happen. But there is a critical element that is sometimes hard to add to the mix. The prospect needs to be receptive to the expectations and open to the correct perception. Sometimes, that does not happen.  But if the pieces and parts aren’t there, the team is surrendering control of their destiny on the project and has a lower chance of success.

As a manager and a leader, it is immensely rewarding to see your team in action demonstrating these qualities.


“Winners make a habit of manufacturing their own positive expectations in advance of the event.”

Brian Tracy

“Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want - and a little more.”

Sam Walton