3 Ways Your Sales Team Can Help Set Customer Expectations

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Every brand has quirks. Every sales funnel has sticking points. And every organization should be equipped (at scale) to navigate and minimize these speed bumps as customers take the journey from prospect to raving fan. Yet numerous sales leaders fail at customer empathy because they don’t regularly audit their own customer experiences.

Failing or lacking the desire to walk in prospects’ shoes is the reason salespeople experience drop-off—or worse, churn. Your sales team can learn the features and benefits like the backs of their hands and memorize answers to common questions, but that doesn’t give them firsthand insight into the obstacles and situations facing a first-contact, first-week, first-month, or first-year user.

Great expectation-setting starts and ends with understanding the sales cycle (from prospect to power user) and serving as your customers’ advocate through their entire interaction with your company. And that’s crucial because nobody likes surprises—especially negative ones. With 44 percent of consumers already believing that salespeople serve only their own agendas anyway, none of us deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Feel What They Feel

As in any relationship, setting the right expectations and addressing problems beforehand makes the customer-brand bond stronger. Train your team to set expectations, instead of just sell products, by encouraging them to incorporate these steps:

1. Address the drawbacks immediately.

People can cope with bad news. But they hate surprises. When listening to a pitch, people are always looking for the “too good to be true” element. The longer it takes to identify, the less they trust the salesperson. If you admit “here’s the catch” (even if the catch is relatively painless), you build credibility and get the customer to start thinking of solutions automatically.

If you sell a software solution that’s hard to learn, for example, don’t pretend it’s easy. Tell customers that it’s challenging because it offers more and that someone will always be there to help them. Selling permanent life insurance? Be clear that clients will be upside down for the first five to 10 years, but that in two decades, they’ll enjoy a liquidity position their peers will envy. Give all the bad news up front so you can get ahead of it and frame it in a positive way.

2. Prove you know your audience.

We’ve all heard it a dozen times: “You must speak the customer’s language.” Prove to customers that you’re on their level by answering questions before they ask them. And if you don’t know what those questions are going to be, dig in and find out.

Take a page from the CEO of Costco’s book. He regularly visits different stores to interact with employees and customers at each one, furthering his knowledge of the customers and the market. Understanding the customers’ needs is key to advocating for them—and it’s a great way to build trust with them as well.

3. Spread your wins like wildfire.

Obviously, you want to share your clients’ success stories with other clients to highlight the value in your service. But you should share them around the office, too. Encourage your sales team to talk about ways they’ve helped customers overcome obstacles whenever they can—in communication channels, in companywide emails, in team meetings, etc.

Letting your salespeople talk to each other about their success stories is a win-win. One leader’s story becomes everybody’s story. In a 2018 DemandGen report, 79 percent of B2B buyers admitted that customer success stories were critical to their buying decisions. Make sure everyone has the accurate details (no embellishing!) and spread the wins like wildfire.

People often love change, but they hate changing. With these strategies, your salespeople can lower the barrier to entry for your service. By signaling the speed bumps along the way, your team can set the expectation with clients that they’ll be advocates, not just sales reps, throughout the process. People will always be drawn to others who actually care about them over those who care only about making sales. Focus on your customers over your services, and you can exceed that expectation every time.

Mike Monroe is digital strategy manager for Vector Marketing. Monroe started working at Vector Marketing in 2000 as a student at Boston College. He wanted to stick out from the crowd and develop himself professionally. Nearly two decades later, that goal hasn’t changed. Learn more at TheVectorImpact.com.

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