The Importance of Setting Expectations When Selling a Product

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a major wrench in the global supply chain this past year. As you’ve noticed, most things are taking much longer to get than they did previously. (Why that’s happening is a different story and not relevant to this post).

If you are in the business of making or selling physical products, this pandemic has probably forced you into learning a thing or two about setting expectations both with your customers and, more importantly, with your team.

Scenario #1 - Radio Silence

Customer would like to buy product they usually expect to arrive within one week. Company advises customer the product is on backorder and will let them know as soon as it’s available. One week later, the customer hasn’t heard anything, is upset, and doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long.

Scenario #2 - Consistent Communication

Customer would like to buy product they normally expect to arrive within one week. Company advises customer the product is on backorder because of a material shortage in one of the product’s core components and educates the customer on why it’s important. Company advises they have consistently seen a pattern of the product becoming available within 4-5 weeks and will keep customer advised along the way. After two weeks, company updates customer they’re ahead of schedule, and product will go into production next week. After three weeks, company advises the product has shipped, and it will arrive within one week. While it took four times longer than usual, the customer is exceedingly happier with their purchase this time than previously.

It’s okay to say “I don’t know” when you actually do not know

When your supply is definitively unpredictable, meaning you truly cannot determine any answer as to when it could be available, then “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer to tell your customer.

Here’s the problem: the times when you truly do not know are far less frequent than you think. So don’t take the easy way out because you aren’t willing to do some digging to determine the answer. Transparency is the key to building trust with a customer, and most of them know if you aren’t giving them the whole truth.

You should be an expert on the product you sell. You should know how it’s made, who makes it, who makes the material that goes into it, the intricacies of the supply chain behind it–everything. Experts can determine, or at the very least make an educated estimate, when their product is expected to be available. If you aren’t an expert, become one, or sell something else.