How to Set Prospect Expectations During the Sales Process

By Sam Holzman

Picture this: A sales rep and a prospect begin the last of several meetings in the hopes of making a deal. Everything has gone smoothly so far, and both the sales rep and prospect expect to leave the meeting satisfied. However, when the sales rep gives the final details of the purchase, the prospect has objections. Eventually, they both leave the meeting frustrated and, ultimately, the sale falls through.

So, what went wrong? This scenario is all too common in the sales world – and it boils down to one thing: The sales rep failed to manage the prospect’s expectations throughout the sale process.

Today, we teach you how to avoid this situation with four easy tactics to manage your prospects’ expectations. Keep reading.

Four Tactics to Manage Prospect Expectations

Tactic #1: Establish goals.

Clear goals are the foundation of any sale. They ensure that both the sales rep and the prospect are working toward the same thing. If you fail to establish goals early on, you risk losing the prospect in the later stages of the sales cycle.

Here’s where many sales reps go wrong: They set goals during the first meeting, but fail to check in on them throughout the process. To start, discuss small goals to provide structure to your meetings. How long do you want the process to take? What do you hope to accomplish in each meeting? What are the next steps?

Then move on to bigger goals, like what the prospect hopes to accomplish with your product and what their ideal price point is.

Tactic #2: Be clear about anticipated outcomes.

Case studies and customer testimonials can be effective sales tools. They give prospects specific examples of what your product has done for past buyers. However, these materials showcase the best possible outcome and can often lead to unrealistic expectations during the sales qualification process – leaving your prospect disappointed and confused.

When you walk the prospect through the anticipated outcome, be hopeful but realistic. Don’t promise the best-case scenario just to sign a deal. If you promise results and then fail to deliver, you will lose any potential business with the prospect in the future.

Tactic #3: Work to extract specific answers.

A vague answer like “maybe” might seem harmless during an early conversation. But, down the line, these non-committal responses from prospects may result in deal-breaking problems. Therefore, it’s important that you push for specific answers from your prospects during your discovery calls. This might seem uncomfortable, but it will prevent either side from making incorrect assumptions about the other’s priorities.

For example, let’s say you want to establish a timeline with your prospect. You ask if they will be ready to make a decision on the deal by the end of the month, to which they say “maybe.” You don’t press for more details – and then, at the end of the month, the prospect reveals they still aren’t sure if they’re interested, and the deal drags out indefinitely. Avoid these last-minute roadblocks by getting concrete answers from the prospect early on.

Tactic #4: Get everything on the table.

Sales reps often hesitate to be upfront about important issues for fear of losing important deals. But building trust in sales is important. So be upfront and address potential roadblocks or issues as soon as you recognize them.

Yes, this means you might have to deliver bad news at times. But deal-breaking issues don’t just disappear if you ignore them. When you wait to address them until later in the process, you may have wasted the prospect’s time and your own.

Worst-case scenario: You disclose that your product may not be the best fit – or that it’s more expensive than the prospect’s allocated budget. You lose the deal and shift your attention to more qualified prospects. Best-case scenario? The prospect appreciates your honesty and works with you to overcome any barriers. Either way, you come out on top.

Final Thought: Not Every Prospect Is a Good Fit for You

Sales reps and buyers are rarely on the same page. Here’s a quick example: According to research from Hubspot, 83 percent of sales reps don’t think they’re pushy, yet more than 50 percent of buyers disagree. Using these four tactics, however, sales reps can better manage prospect expectations – leading to a better experience for all parties involved.

And remember: Not every prospect will be a good fit for your products or services. Setting prospect expectations early on can weed out the bad from the good and make your sales conversations more productive. With more productive and honest sales conversations, you’ll generate more deals and more lifelong customers.

Sam Holzman is the content marketing specialist at ZoomInfo, where he writes for their B2B sales and marketing blog. ZoomInfo is a leading B2B contact database that helps organizations accelerate growth and profitability. Visit for more information. 

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