One morning on my way to work, I heard a young man telling a story about his first year of marriage. Each morning, his new wife would grab something quick for breakfast, give him a peck on the cheek and be on her merry way to work.

After a few weeks, frustration started to set in. You see, when the young man was growing up, the morning ritual involved being served a nice warm breakfast by his loving and attentive mother. Bewildered by this lack of attention from his wife, he finally asked her one day, “Honey, are we good?”

She was puzzled. “Sure we’re good, in fact we’re great. Why do you ask?” “Well, we’ve been married for weeks now and not once have you cooked me a warm breakfast like my mom did. So I thought maybe you were mad at me.”

“Oh, I see,” she replied. “You want a warm breakfast. Well then, why don’t you slide your bowl of cornflakes over to me and I’ll set them on fire!”

Needless to say, this left me in stitches. It also made me reflect on a subject most agents don’t spend enough time discussing with their clients: expectations.

In the story, the husband began the marriage expecting his wife to behave like his mother. He didn’t verbalize his expectation because he simply assumed this was just what a wife did. Without clearly defined and communicated expectations, we all tend to assume—and you know what they say about that.

This is why it is so crucial in business relationships to verbalize expectations. If each party does this, it opens the lines of communication so that if something does not meet expectations, adjustments can be made. As an advisor, it is in your best interest to encourage your clients and prospects to verbalize their expectations, because—make no mistake—they do have them. For example, if your clients are expecting to receive their life insurance policies in a couple weeks, you can offer them a more realistic timeline so they aren’t (unpleasantly) surprised.

And you have expectations, too. For example, you expect them to be open and honest about their financial situation and their goals, so you can make the recommendations that will be most beneficial to them. And you can expect them to tell you right away if their expectations are not being met.

Don’t do as the young man in the story did and get tripped up by unexpressed expectations. Assume nothing, communicate everything, and you and your clients will be on your way to a long and happy relationship.

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Wendy Swanson has been working with and coaching insurance agents and advisors since for nearly 15 years. As a marketing coordinator for Senior Market Sales, Inc., she coaches advisors on practical marketing tips and sales approaches for annuities and life insurance. She can be reached at wendy@seniormarketsales.com.