Expecting the Expected. How to set yourself up to avoid disappointing your clients

                         Everyone wants to be successful in every aspect of their lives: friendships, love life and business.  Unfortunately, we are notorious for not doing all the little things that can help us to achieve that much sought-after success.

Arguably the most important, and often the most overlooked, aspect of success is setting proper expectations with the other people in your life.  As humans, we enter every interpersonal interaction with a certain level of expectation: we already have a mental, preconceived notion of how things should transpire.  Nature has endowed us with the ability to mentally preview events in our mind before they happen, making assumptions about what is going to happen before it occurs.

From an evolutionary standpoint, this was a wonderful development.  Obviously, if our ancestor was about to walk into a situation where he would be eaten by a large carnivore, the ability to assume what was about to occur could potentially save him from a gruesome death.  While this ability can often serve us well, erroneous preconceived notions can cause us a great deal of grief in our business lives.

As humans, we are programmed to be nervous when entering an unfamiliar situation.  Whenever we are about to enter a business relationship with a new client, that client will be nervous and will develop an idea in their mind of how the business transaction will progress.  This idea will ultimately be an accumulation of all the various ideas that the client has previously absorbed.

These expectations may come from previous business interactions, advice from others, internet “education”, or simply from personal observations that the client has made.  Regardless of their point of origination, these expectations can have an effect (for good or for bad) on the outcome of your business interaction.

As a business professional, it is your obligation to be aware of your client’s expectations.  Sometime these expectations are in line with the probable outcome, and have a beneficial effect on the business transaction.  Unfortunately, our client’s expectations are often out of line with reality, setting the client up for disappointment in your service or product and producing an unhappy customer.  And we all know that unhappy clients are not good for business, especially in our current digital age where every individual can broadcast their opinions to the masses.

While everyone should be aware of their client’s expectations, successful business owners know that they are responsible for making sure that their client’s expectations align with reality.  If your client is expecting something more than what you deliver, and you fail to correct their misplaced beliefs, then you have failed in your job as a business person.  This error in judgement has the potential to set the client up for disappointment and to set yourself up for the stressful future of dealing with a disgruntled customer.

And while it will be uncomfortable to have to engage in a conversation about expectations with your client, you must tactfully explain the reasons why their expectations do not match the reality of the situation.  This will certainly produce a better result than having to deal with the ramifications of an unhappy customer.

There is a quote by author Shannon L. Alder that says “He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”  I would propose a slight modification to this quote to be more applicable to our current discussion: “He who has conquered the fear of confrontation with their clients has learned the secret of success in business.”

We all feel a little hesitant to “rock the boat,” but by overcoming this fear and pointing the ship in the proper direction, we can often get to our intended destination, riding on much smoother seas.

Sail on.

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Thanks, Joe

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