By Christine Carruthers, Vice President, Strategic Services

Making serious financial decisionsAs senior living consultants, we’re often asked about the different types of community and organizational challenges we see on a regular basis, and especially about the obstacles within them. Personally, I’ve seen issues run the gamut from dated buildings and unfocused sales teams to misdirected advertising campaigns and lack of a public relations program – the list goes on.

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But the most common problem I see at communities is the lack of managing their prospects’ expectations. Expectation management not only benefits prospects, though – it’s something every staff member, at any level, at all organizations would benefit from doing. Whether you’re working with prospects, your sales team, or clients, managing expectations is crucial. However, it is particularly critical for marketing and sales teams, operations teams, and most importantly, senior leadership. Those who master this skill are the ones who succeed.

So, how do you successfully manage expectations, you ask? The following is a list of my personal best practices for effective relationship management in my role as vice president of strategic services at Love & Company – each applicable by sales and marketing teams who work with prospects and each other to continue operating effectively and efficiently.

  • Over communicate. Don’t assume anyone remembers times, dates or small details you’ve previously shared. Let them be the ones to tell you it’s okay to stop reminding them. I’ve found that most people appreciate the extra effort.
  • See their side. Learn what they’re thinking, why they’re thinking it, and what they expect to happen next. This will give you insights about their concerns, and give you a chance to address them.
  • Ask meaningful questions. Asking the right open-ended questions allows you to drill down to the basis of how a perception or expectation has been formulated. It also gives you a chance to be an active listener.
  • Think ahead. Envision the best, most mutually beneficial outcome of every project you’re working on, and use that end goal to map the steps you will take to get there. By planning ahead and knowing what your goals are in advance, you, your teams and your prospects can communicate and interact with purpose.
  • Embrace negative perceptions. When a negative perception is voiced, use it as an opportunity to gain their favor. Talk through their issues and recognize their stance without judgment. Learn what it would take to make them feel and think differently. The best way to combat negative, pre-conceived notions is through positive experiences. A false expectation can be corrected with facts, whereas a negative perception will need to be disproven through experience.
  • Build trust. This is the most important rule. Trust fuels function in relationships. It enables teams to become stronger and to operate better. Prospects will be more comfortable talking to you and buying from you. Each of the insights listed above play a role in building trust in all your working relationships.

Between hectic schedules, a growing to-do list, and still having to reach objectives by specific deadlines, it’s common for intangible operating elements such as expectation management to fall by the wayside. But, when a relationship is established between two parties – you and your team, you and your client, or you and your prospect – you have a much higher probability of being successful. By mindfully managing expectations from the beginning and building trust throughout the course of your relationship, the results of your endeavors will speak for themselves.

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