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Tips, Tricks, & Advice

Set Proper Expectations

Set Proper Expectations

by john roman

3 years ago

It’s really easy to just say ‘yes’, change the subject, or say ‘let me find out and circle back’ and never follow up.  These are of course answers to when a prospect asks you a question about the product you are selling.  I promise you, it’s not worth it.  Be honest.  Under-promise and over-deliver.  Set proper expectations.

I get it, you have a sales quota.  I’ve been in your shoes.  When you fail at setting proper expectations, you open up pandora’s box.  Implementation of your product might be a nightmare, buyer’s remorse might sink in, the customer might blow you up non-stop... taking away from you working on new business, losing credibility as a sales professional, hurting your brand’s reputation… just to name a few of the things that might occur.

This starts with leadership and culture.  As a sales leader, are you setting proper expectations with your sales teams?  Are you training your teams correctly?  I get it, you have numbers to hit too.  Possibly investors, you might be publicly traded, you might be bootstrapped and this sale means you take home a paycheck.  I promise you, it’s better, in the long run, to just do the right thing, and set proper expectations.

As I look back on all the times expectations were set incorrectly on a service/technology we have purchased for BattlBox, all but 1 instance ended up with us leaving that vendor.  The only time we stayed was when the vendor totally owned the situation, fell on their sword, and went above and beyond to make the situation better.

The subscription niche of eCommerce has many more nuances than traditional eCommerce.  As I playback in my head a few of the solutions we had purchased where the expectations were incorrect, almost all lead back to this.  You have a successful SaaS solution that works wonderfully for traditional eCommerce that falls super-short when you layer in the subscription aspect.  

I am going to dissect an SMS solution we pulled the trigger on at the end of last year.  I’ll hit on the important (and some non-important) parts of the timeline and offer some unsolicited feedback.  I won’t mention the name of the company.

11/29/2018 - SMS Company reaches out to us via email (prospecting):

No response from us

4/19/2019 - SMS Company reached out to us again via email (new rep prospecting):

No response from us

8/5/2019 - They reach out again, 3rd rep at this point, same emails as before.

No response from us.

10/1/2019 - Same rep as August, same campaign, but was sent to members of my team (not sent to me at all) We had recently decided we were going to look at SMS solutions so this was simply good timing.  One of my team members engaged with them to have a call.

Random Thoughts:  Their approach to email prospecting - It’s definitely automated.  It appears to be a 3 part series.  

First email:

Second email:

Third email:

Overview: They are sending this to multiple people in the organization.  The name in the subject line obviously changes.  The mentioned integration in the body (and supporting statements based on it) change as well.  Not a horrible approach, nothing earth-shattering either though.  2 of the 4 times they ran this campaign on us, the solution was at least mentioned to me by someone internally (including the last time when we agreed to a meeting).  They have switched up some of the approaches in the initial email as of recent and the ‘forgetful’ reason they send the 2nd email, but the same mechanics.  Here is a recent one from last week:

10/16/2019 - We have a demo call.  The call is less qualifying, more pitching.  In hindsight, it’s because of naivety towards the subsect of eCommerce, subscriptions.  We ask about some mission-critical integrations (Recharge and Gorgias) and are assured they already exist and they have live customers using them. When we dig into these integrations with some further questions, the rep does NOT have the answers but agrees to find out.  There is no proactive follow up on these questions.  The next steps are identified in an email post-call and they do a pretty good job of controlling the sales cycle.

Follow up Email:

Overview:  With the 5x ROI Guarantee, there seems to be very little risk with the solution.  We agree to set up the next call and bring on a few other members of the team that would be involved in the solution (e.g. our head of CS since SMS responses would be flowing through into Gorgias).  I also wanted another C-level on the next call with me as a sounding board to ensure I was not missing something because, pending the additional integration questions panning out, this seemed like a no brainer to do.  Everything made so much sense, my radar was going off that something might be afoul.  


10/24/2019:  We have the planned follow-up call.  I bring up the deeper integration questions again and again they get tabled so their side can find out the answers.  Besides these questions about the integrations they are touting, everything else still sounds OK.  They send an example of a customer using Recharge and using their solution (however this does not answer my question regarding their integration).  They send a follow up to schedule a final call, I get covered up and do not respond.

10/28/2019: They follow up again, and I respond telling them for us to touch base Monday to set up the final call.

11/22/2019:  They follow up (they had forgotten to follow up when i asked).  We are in the midst of BF/CM so I let them know we can resume discussions in December and we will reach out to them once we are able to breathe.

12/17/2019:  In an effort to get the deal, they offer us 50% off their pricing forever if we sign the agreement before the end of the year.  I take a vacation with my wife for our anniversary so I ask if we can sign the agreement but NOT install until January when I return.  They confirm that is fine and we move forward on 12/21.

1/7/2020:  We jump on a call to go over implementation and setting the solution up.  The next 3 weeks are filled with multiple calls and around 100 emails

By the beginning of February, we are still not live with the solution and we have an email thread with multiple daily responses between us, the vendor, our dev agency HulkApps, and Recharge.

The SMS solution is simply not a full-blown integration with Recharge like we had been told.  The SMS vendor is truly trying to get their product to work how we need it, but nobody seems to be able to figure it out.

By the middle of February, dozens of additional emails, and a couple of calls.  Still no resolution in sight.  Due to the amount of time spent on trying to get this to work the way we need it to we look at having HulkApps do some further development work to push more customer information from Recharge into Shopify (since that is the only real integration this solution really has).  Just to further explain what feature we were wanting to have as it is NOT a big ask, we wanted to have the status of a subscriber be known before sending them an SMS.  This basic segmenting was mission-critical as you would not send the same type of SMS to an active subscriber customer than you would to a user that has never purchased a subscription regardless of their behavior on our site.

By the middle of March, we are exhausted and throw the white flag.  We are unable to get the SMS solution working how it was intended to work.  We remove all the additional coding that was added and request a refund.  Our account manager (who was awesome and did her absolute best) looped in their billing department.  We were reminded that we were in contract and made it sound like a refund was not possible.  We were then ghosted by everyone on their billing side and were forced to dispute the charges on our American Express which we obviously won.

I am exhausted telling this story and pretty sure I have some PTSD from the experience.  All of this could have been avoided if proper expectations were set pre-sell.  Instead, I have a certain level of disdain for this company and have actually stopped 4 companies from using their solution that I am aware of.  Nobody won here, all parties involved put their most valuable asset (time) into this and lots of it and the outcome meant it was all for nothing.  You can say ‘No’ when a prospect asks about a certain feature/function if it doesn’t exist.  Sure, you might not get the deal if you do that, but I promise you… You don’t want the deal.  Writing bad business never pans out well in the long run.  


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