We talk a lot about expectations in business, but in reality we seem to almost talk around them. Everyone claims they want the best or can deliver the best, but obviously that’s impossible in reality. There is one best sales team, and one best marketing team — and while others might be elite, the reality is most are somewhere in the middle or bottom of their market. The “best” is a real thing. We may have degraded the idea of expertise recently, but there are still people at their best — and while you should expect the best when you hire or work with someone, you’re not always going to get it. So there needs to be a bigger discussion about managing expectations, and that’s definitely important when thinking about outsourcing work.
A client call we had
A few weeks ago, we had a call with a potential client. They run a very high ticket service business that requires consultative, multi-touch sales with long sales cycles to CxO level and want to enter the DACH market.
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The conversation went like this:
Client: We will do a sales campaign from September to December with you and I expect 2 sales. Can you commit to that?
Us: No, not at all.
Client: Why not? You are a senior sales executive and your sales process seems top-notch.
Us: Right now, at this second, you have no sales funnel in DACH. You need to build one over the next 6 to 12 months. Then it’s about numbers and revenues.
Client: Let’s have a workshop and you’ll see how good our solution is.
Us: Well, it’s much less about your product and much more about your buyer journey …
So did we take this client?
No. We couldn’t. They had potentially nice money to pay but the expectations would not have been there properly and the arrangement would die pretty fast.
This was the logic of that client:
- “Our product is superior.”
- “We have not sold in this market.”
- “Let’s find a good sales guy in this market and pay him well to sell our stuff.”
- “We should have a bunch of prospects and customers in no time.”
Those expectations are too high and not in line with reality, especially if DACH hits a potential recession in 2020/21. It will always be about building the funnel and fortifying the buyer journey. If you are able to commit to those concepts as your expectations in the first year, without necessarily seeing a massive amount of sales, then you’ve built a foundation to see more sales in Year 2, Year 3, etc. Once the funnel and the buyer journey are there, you can sell effectively in a new market. If you just think “Our product is tops” and assume that means “Sales are immediately the next thing,” your expectations won’t be met. And whether you’re using outsourced sales, in-house sales, or an agency … you’ll just keep churning through people saying “Well, that didn’t work!”
What actually isn’t working is the expectations you have. If you understand that building a foundation takes time, and can sign for even 18 months with an expectation that the sales “spigot” can turn on near the end of the first year, you’re in a better position than your rivals long-term (and even intermediate-term). But if your expectations are unrealistic, all you’ll do is burn everyone out.