Since it’s Super Bowl week, a football story is fitting. Back in the ‘90s, there was a powerful running back out of Michigan named LeRoy Hoard. If you’ve never heard of him, that’s okay; his career wasn’t spectacular. And no, it had nothing to do with the fact he was drafted by the Cleveland Browns. ;)
After six years in Cleveland, he was cut after two games in 1996, the season the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Carolina signed him, and he lasted just three games with the Panthers before being cut. It seemed his career was over. When Minnesota called, he decided he needed to change his approach from wanting to be the featured running back, to what he was best at: short yardage and goal-line situations.
He reportedly said,
“Coach, if you need one yard, I’ll get you three yards. If you need five yards, I’ll get you three yards.”
No, that’s not a typo, as Hoard understood his limitations. The Vikings signed him, and he would play for another three years. He did exactly as he said, he’d pick up the tough yards and score the touchdowns. In three full seasons with the Vikings, Hoard scored 24 touchdowns. Minnesota flourished.
He was signed because he managed the expectations, so they knew exactly what they were getting and were pleased with the results. If he would have said “I can be “the guy” and rush for 1,500 yards and 15 TDs” the Vikings would have probably passed.
Are you doing the same in your business? Are you telling prospects you can get them ranked for a competitive phrase in less than a month? Or worse, in a week because you are so desperate for the work?
If you are, you’re just going to create an uncomfortable conversation in the not so distant future, and you’ll be looking for another client.
I learned the magic of client expectations from my grandfather. Clients want things done on time, and they want clear communication through the process. You have full control over both aspects.
Here’s the secret: Take the expecting time to complete the project, double it, and then add a few more days. Then every 1-3 days, fire off a short, to the point email on the progress.
For example, if you tell a client you will have the project done in three days, but deliver in five, they will be pissed and may not renew with you. However, if you tell the client you will deliver in ten days, and you deliver in five, they might just hug you.
This is managing expectation at its finest. Rarely does a project go smoothly from start to finish, but for some reason, in your head, you think it will be. You think you are a bullet-proof rock star and can work through the night to get the project done quickly for the client. The problem with that thinking is, the next project, they will expect the same quick delivery. The expectation has been set, and the client will always hold you to it.
The reality of life is you run into unforeseen delays, illness from staff, technology issues, etc. You must have a buffer to get the problems handled and still deliver on time. This may seem like common sense, but the practice of this strategy is far from common.
Just as you take careful consideration when framing your offer, you also have to frame expectations to keep your clients happy, and it will also positively affect your staff as there will be far less stress in your office.