Your client has to be wrong. They believe that you made a commitment that you aren’t keeping. But you don’t remember making that commitment. In fact, you would have never made the commitment they now expect you to keep. Here’s how those commitments get made.
Your Silence Created a Commitment
I’ve seen salespeople make a lot of sins of omission. They would never overtly lie to their clients directly, but they do let the client believe something that isn’t exactly true. They fear that answering a question or sharing information that conflicts with what the client needs will cost them their opportunity. In reality, not disabusing a client of a false belief is more likely to cost you the client even if you win the business.
I once competed for an account against a large number of my competitors. The client’s service level agreements were a joke. Because of the natural constraints in their business, there was no way they could have what they wrote in the RFP. I sat alone in a room of eleven stakeholders, many of whom were C-level executives. One of the stakeholders said, “You are the only person to object to our SLA’s. Everyone else said we could have what we want. Are all of them lying?” I replied, “If they said you could have what you have written here they are.” And then I explained how, having served the client for a couple years, I understood how the constraints of their business prevented them from getting what they wanted, at least the way they wanted it. The C-level Executive said, “You’re the first person to sit in this room and tell us the truth.” I won the business.
Your Failure to Ask Created a Commitment
Recently a client told me about an issue they had with a one of their customers. The agreed to have regular meetings to review their performance. It sounded like a great idea, and my client created great value for their customers in these meeting, as well as learned how to do even better. What they didn’t know was their customer intended that they have these meetings with a dozen of their teams each quarter.
Even if what you hear sounds innocuous, you might not have any idea what your client really means. Even if you believe you understand what your client is asking of you, it never hurst to confirm it means what you believe it means.
Sometimes you make commitments that you don’t know that you made. These commitments are easier to clear up before the expectation is set.