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How to Manage Your Clients’ Expectations

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It’s not easy to manage your clients’ expectations. They want a better outcome, but they don’t necessarily want the pain that comes along with obtaining that better outcome. Here are some of the ways you can get into trouble:

Leaving out the ugly parts. To win, you have to convince a prospect that you can achieve a better outcome for him. But telling your prospect how difficult it will be to get to that outcome doesn’t make him feel good about buying from you (especially if he has to do a large part of the heavy lifting).

You know that some of your competitors will suggest that they can get a better outcome, and they won’t tell your prospect how difficult it will be to get there. Some will even tell your prospect that he can get the outcome he is seeking for an amount lower than he is currently investing.

You know this is true. So you leave out the ugly parts, the parts where your prospect has to spend more, change some of the ways he does business or change in some other way that is difficult for him. Enter the vicious cycle.

The vicious cycle. Your prospect wants to believe the fairy tale that she can have everything she wants if only she chooses the right person to work with, preferably one with the lowest price. When she hears that she can have it all, she buys the lie, only to be disappointed.

Then you show up with the promises she’s heard before. Any wonder she’s skeptical? Yet, she really wants to believe—it would make everything so much easier.

Without telling your prospect what she really needs to do to get the outcomes she wants, you become another failure in a long line of failed partnerships. So, you try to manage expectations after the fact.

Believing you can win the opportunity and then unveil all that it will really take to produce results is a bad idea. Managing expectations after the fact doesn’t help you build good client relationships, especially because you are sharing information that you knew (or should have known). Prospects can end up regretting not choosing your competitor—the one who didn’t tell them what would really have to change to get the outcome they need.

And you were dishonest into the bargain. You lied by omission.

There is only one way out. The only way out is to tell the truth. You must manage expectations from the start. But not to worry: Many of your prospects are actually longing for someone to speak the truth.

No, they’re not going to jump for joy when you tell them they have to invest more or make sweeping and dramatic changes. But they are going to know that you’re honest, and if you prove you care, they’re going to know that you will do what you promise and help them get the results they need.

The way to manage expectations is to be honest and upfront from the very beginning. Don’t make difficult outcomes sound easy. Discuss your constraints and your prospect’s constraints, and talk about the investments in time and effort it will take for both of you to succeed.

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Anthony Iannarino is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, a boutique sales coaching and consulting company, and an adjunct faculty member at Capital University’s School of Management and Leadership. For more information, go


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