The Art and Science of Managing Expectations in Selling
It is very easy to fall into a trap with the customer by extending offerings beyond that of what the company infrastructure is able to supply in a reasonable timeline.
As a salesperson, you must manage the quality of the sales process. With this context of "quality deal management" in mind, the theme cannot be to do "whatever it takes to close the deal". There must be a balance. That balance is achieved through managing expectations with the future cusotmer and with your own organization.
The deal in question must be evaluated and built around a solution that meets the goals of the customer, your company, and the ethics of the salesperson. If expectations are properly managed, the deal will adhere to these tenets and be beneficial for all parties. If communication is compromised, production capacity or delivery is stressed or the quality of the end product is sacrificed and the deal is not beneficial for all parties and may damage future business opportunities.
Many sales professionals argue that it's their job to "load the cart" and the responsibility of the operations staff to figure out how to address the requirement. While too much business may be a good problem to have, proper deal management ensures that expectations are managed in a way that will not over commit a company's operations resources regarding delivery and that the end product is what is expected by the customer within the designated delivery timeline.
Proper documentation will ease the strain of effectively communicating between the customer and the operations staff. Signed and executed documents including delivery specs, dates, item codes, product descriptions, etc. should always be a part of the process when passing the baton to another division of the company and should be maintained in duplicate in the sales folder documenting the project. The Benchmarks for ISO9000 certification from a process standard are good references when considering the handling of documentation within a sales force.
Good communication on all sides is the secret to effective deal management. I cannot stress enough that the salesperson should stay involved with both the customer and the operations/delivery team throughout implementation to ensure that there are no gaps in expectations on either side. Staying in constant communication with the customer allows the salesperson to solidify the relationship with the customer and to mitigate any communication issues or points for interpretation between the customer and the operations staff. Also, continuing communications from the sales person helps the customer to not feel like "just another number" and can almost always increase the chances for add on sales.
Integrity is the key element in deal management. Maintaining the respect of the customer and the operations staff involved will always offer the best-delivered good or service. Often times a delay or setback is better understood by a customer that has received good communications and straight forward answers from their solution provider. There is no substitute for a quality in the sales profession.
Brian is the Chairman and Founder of the the United Professional Sales Association (UPSA). UPSA is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington DC that has addressed the concerns and challenges of individual sales professionals. Brian has authored the world's first universal selling standards and open-source selling framework for free distribution. This 'Compendium of Professional Selling' containing the commonly accepted and universally functional knowledge that all sales professionals possess. The open-source selling standards have been downloaded in 16 countries by over 300 people. Over 30 people have made contributions.
Because UPSA is not owned by one person or any company, it is a member organization and guardian of the global standard of entry into the sales profession.