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Managing Your Clients’ Expectations

If you promise the earth then expect to lose as the earth is already taken.

Managing a client is also about making sure you do not promise what you can’t deliver, in fact, if a client asks of something you can’t fulfil, then walk away, either way you lose if you don’t.

A client is paying you fulfil a promise made from your sales pitch, if you promise more than you can realistically deliver then you know you are one sticky wicket and sometimes the client won’t go away but keep coming back to haunt you. A rash promise can lead to a lot of time wasting on your part and ultimately leaving you and your client poles apart. Here below are a few tips to help you to qualify and win clients without you losing your time or money and ultimately keeping the client satisfied, as you will deliver what you promise.

The Price

Our first example is something many of us will experience as either a client or a sales executive: THE PRICE.

The price you will charge your client for your company’s services should reflect fairly the service you can provide and not made up of “if’s and but’s”.

“If you do this we will do that but if you don’t then we can’t do the other”.

Not being able to do the other suggests your company service is limited to what it can do, what you should be thinking on is how flexible the price is in relationship to the service offered.

Scenario 1: The Estate Agent

So with all this in mind we will focus on our best friend the Estate Agent.

An Estate Agent is valuing a property with the client at home looking for a price to sell.

The house in question is £450,000 in real value (but only we know this at this point!).

The Estate Agent suggests a price of £439,950 for a quick sale, £450,000 to open market or £475,000 if the client is in no hurry to sell (but will move quickly for the price).

At £475,000 the client will bite your hand off, but the client is also aware of your lower prediction of £439,950 (quick sale routine). So what’s wrong with this scenario?

There are a number of potential pitfalls, of which, most are in the seller’s mind. So you now have to extrapolate yourself from all these and it won’t be easy, WHY? Because you just gave your client too many options.

Option 1 – Sell at £439,950: from a client’s point of view this price is too low, not to be considered.

Option 2 – Sell at £450,000: from a client’s point of view this is OK but you also mentioned £475,000 so lets talk about it a bit more.

Option 3 – Sell at £475,000 and defend your position. Client now wants what you cannot deliver so you are already on the back foot.

Option 3 should never have been offered.

The highest value offered should have been no more than £459,950.

The reason the value has to be capped is that you started at £439,950, therefore, you want the client to consider this may be the best they can get unless by using your company only they might get £459,950. With a fair wind you might get £450,000.

But what you say is:

“Now as an estate agent I could just offer an ‘aspirational price’ of £475,000 but this would just over-cook the price, the buyers would see it as far too high and you may not generate even £450,000 because the price had over-reached itself and therefore lost credibility to the market”.

It should be noted the client’s needs should be qualified: Do they need a quick sale, are they testing the market, what will they do when they get an offer? Even if the client is just testing the market, keep the low to high price as close together as possible.

The client is now only £20,000 away from high to low, (£439,950 to £459,950) but you have also covered yourself against values of £475,000 from other agents (even if the other agents just sit there imploring the client to use their services for less commission, they still won’t get the business) Why? Because if the client insists on an unrealistic price you have the option to walk away and keep your fees intact. The other agent has now two problems.

A) Unrealistic price


B) A lower commission to work on.

From experience you will know when and how far you can realistically push a price, but by covering yourself with the magic words of “I could tell you more just to get your business, but this would ultimately fail you and may even cost you money in real terms so I won’t take you down this road”. You can phrase this how you like but as a sales professional you get the idea.

Scenario 2: The Recruitment Consultant

But this is just one business format so let’s take a quick look at RECRUITMENT.

A recruitment consultant will often be pitching for new business, but on whose terms?

Yours or theirs?

The client feels he should be able to employ an experienced sales executive paying £10,000 basic with a £20,000 OTE. You the recruitment consultant are already thinking of sales administrators, receptionists or customer service advisors. A bit different from the client’s needs.

Do you take the position? Advise the client he is wrong or move his expectations?

The correct answer is: Move his expectations, but how?

The client is looking for someone with a strong telesales background to handle incoming calls, arrange sales meetings and send out marketing material, but also able to close sales when required.

Now this is not a real sales job but it’s neither a receptionist role nor a sales admin role. It’s a “TRAINEE SALES ROLE”, but you haven’t told the client yet.


A) Because the job is well paid for the work required


B) The client doesn’t know what you are thinking.

So to the pitch!

You need to ask the client a few questions to “qualify” the position.

  • How much previous sales experience is required?
  • How important is it to have industry knowledge?
  • Is this a newly created role or is/was someone doing the job already? If so what was their background before taking on the role?
  • If the person left, how long were they in the job for?

You can continue to qualify with a few more questions: education, hours required, non-sales skills required (computer skills etc). At the end of your qualifying you should have a clear picture and based on the answers, cross referenced with your candidate database you should now know how achievable it will be to fill the position.

By delivering to your client your expectations becomes part of the negotiation as to whether your agency is right for the client, be prepared to walk away and be honest with the client, like the estate agent before, if the clients’ expectations are unrealistic you keep your fees intact but you also keep tabs on the client whilst they try unsuccessfully to fill the role elsewhere, stepping in when the client realises they’re not going to get what they want. You in the meantime will have worked on two possible outcomes, either candidates looking for a higher remuneration for the job or candidates with lower skills within the salary criteria.

Once you build client trust it’s easier to continue serving the client with future vacancies, as they now trust your judgment.

Scenario 3: Media Sales

Media Sales is another area where managing your clients’ expectations is very important. If you compare advertising prices of a local newspaper to a national there is quite a big gap with national papers charging possibly 5 to 10 times more than a local paper. Having worked in the industry and for a small regional paper I often had the complaint of either poor results or no response at all. I realised the problem was not the print circulation (6,500 per week) but the type of adverts. The paper in question serviced a small to medium sized market town with little local employment and nothing much in the way of local news (most papers have a fair amount of crime to report about, this sells papers, the paper I worked on didn’t have any).

But what the region did offer was a fair amount of mums at home, retired city executives and 6 schools. Therefore the sales team focused on the disposable income available to this market sector: property, beauty and keep fit classes, pension advisors and quality products (AGAs, BMWs, Land Rovers, soft furnishings) etc. were in and recruitment classifieds, second hand cars etc. were out or at least dropped to lower prices.

If you look at on-line advertising it’s pretty much the same thing, Saleswork only offers sales jobs and sales articles for sales professionals to take any interest. We don’t want accountants or secretaries, nor do we want non UK traffic.

By managing your clients’ expectations you can deliver what you promise but qualify your clients’ needs first then sell.