What do you mean?
Jean works in the RAB’s Dallas office and I’m in Oshkosh, WI. We communicate via email for projects and things we need from each other frequently. Recently I was asking him to create a webpage for one of our webinars. I was working ahead, so there was no real rush. I sent an email asking for his help and he responded, “I’ll get on it ASAP.” I responded back quickly, “No rush Jean, it’s not that time-sensitive.”
Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB
He replied, “That’s why I said as soon as possible.”
When I ask for something ASAP or tell someone I’ll do something ASAP, to me, that means drop everything and do it now. For me, ASAP means “urgent.” For Jean, ASAP means exactly what it says: as soon as possible. Meaning, I’m working on other things right now and I’ll get to this one as soon as I can. Whose definition of ASAP is correct? Mine or Jean’s?
They both are correct, thus the difficulty of communication. The words we use, the phrases we choose, are based on your values, beliefs, and past experience. Our expectations may not be the same as others with whom we are communicating.
This is an article, so it’s difficult to get your immediate feedback, but if I told you I had an expensive car, what would that mean to you? How much is expensive? For my 16-year-old son, $7,000 is an expensive car. To my uncle, $150,000 is an expensive car. Who’s right? If your car needed repairs and the service writer told you, “this is going to take a while,” how long would you think that would be? When doing this exercise in live-training sessions, the answer ranges from 30 minutes to 30 days.
The point? We must use precise language and understand the expectations of our clients clearly in order to ensure we have satisfied clients. The simple and effective way to do this is to always include this question in your presentations: “What has to happen for this strategy/schedule/promotion to be successful in your eyes?” What we are asking is how THEY define success. If you think 30 days is a while in the car repair example and the service department calls you in 3 days, you'd be thrilled. At the same time, if you thought 30 minutes was a while and it took the 3 days, you’d be livid. Same time frame, different expectation.
In my experience, one of the greatest challenges we face, and frankly, one of our greatest failures as sellers, is the failure to define and set proper client expectations. This may have only happened in my markets, but from time to time I’d call on a prospect and they would tell me: “I tried radio once and…” You likely already know the answer. Did radio fail? Of course not. The seller failed to set and define clear expectations with the client.
Setting expectations is accomplished by asking questions:
• “If this meeting is going to be successful in your mind, what has to happen?”
• “If I’m going to continue to earn your business, what has to happen?”
• “How will you be evaluating the success of this program?”
• “What results are you hoping to achieve when making this investment?”
These are just some examples. Failure is usually the result of unmet expectations. Not a product failure or a strategy failure, but a failure to meet the expectations of your client. If you don’t know what those expectations are before you start, you’re shooting in the dark.
My suggestion is to start asking expectation questions ASAP. Ah, immediately.
Jeff Schmidt is SVP of Professional Development for the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-753-6765. Other ways to connect: Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt or LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/schmidtjeffrey.