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Setting the 'Right' expectations with customers early

By ambareesh ·
"That rate is too high, it will just scare them away". "Let's not make the project sound too complicated". "Let's not bring it up now".

How many times have you said that? I am myself guilty of wanting to defer the tough conversations with customers for fear of rocking the boat. To be seen as a trusted advisor, it is critical that right expectations are set at the very early stages of the project, irrespective of whether the customer wants to hear it or not. It is much better to live in reality than just saying what the customer wants to hear.

The advantage of being forthright upfront is that you have to have the tough conversations only once and immediately build credibility rather than having to come up with stories on why the mismatch in expectations (adapted from "Tips from the Trenches") . With this approach one runs the risk of getting the customer upset, but in the long run they appreciate it .

Here are some examples of typical objections and issues that one can run into while selling services:
Customer: Your rates are too high.
Spur of the moment response: Let me see if I can get you a discount.
Measured response: We are extremely proud of the quality and value of the services we provide. Our rates are in line with Industry standards and for the services we provide we believe our rates are fair.

Customer: If I sign on the SOW, I want you to assure me that you will meet or beat our deadlines.
Spur of the moment response: Mr. Customer, do not worry, we are the best and we will surpass all expectations.
Measured response: The estimate and dates that we have provided in the SOW are based on prior experience delivering similar work. While we feel confident in our abilities to meet the dates, our deliverables are dependent on several other factors that are beyond our control. What we have provided is a best case scenario and we would recommend that sufficient contingencies be built in.

Customer: I will only sign the PO if you can promise me that you will have consultants available for me next week.
Spur of the moment response: Yes Sir/Madam!
Measured Response: We realize how important it is for you to start quickly, however we will have to check on consultant availability and get back to you. We tend to prioritize our consultants availability based on us receiving approved paperwork and request that you send us the PO ASAP so we don???t lose consultants to other competing projects. While we will do our best to make a consultant available as quickly as we can, it is safe to assume that the earliest availability will be 3-4 weeks.

Customer: I should not have to pay your consultants to build this feature in the product, it should be available out of the box. Can you ask your development team to add it to the product for me?
Spur of the moment response: Of course!
Measured Response: We understand your requirements, and have an internal process to capture product enhancement requests. We will communicate your requirements to our product management team and get back to you with their response. However to meet your immediate project needs, it is our recommendation that this feature be treat as a custom request and have our consultants build it for you.

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