Expectation Management [SMB Consulting Best Practices book excerpt]

Happy Saturday everyone! I am the author of the above title and each day I like to hold a virtual book reading by posting up a passage from my book. Cool!



Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host a technology conference in the New York City area each spring? Save the date for March 6-8, 2009 and watch “voice meet data” in the SMB space!

PPS – my SBS 2008 book will be out in mid-November 2008!

PPPS – my Microsoft Response Point Primer book is here NOW!

Practice Expectation Management

Second only to the trust issue is the matter of “expectation management.” Inexperienced or immature SMB consultants often fall into the trap of trying to please everybody. This people-pleasing behavior can look like the following:

·           It’ll only cost this much — Have you every knowingly or unknow­ingly underquoted the true costs of an engagement?

·           Next release syndrome — Have you ever tried to duck and dodge a technical problem by promising it will be fixed in the next release (whether you know this to be true or not)?

·           Overpromising and underdelivering — Have you ever found yourself saying, “Oh yeah, Small Business Server 2003 can do that,” when you’ve never successfully implemented that particular feature?

·           Staff capabilities — Have you ever said, “We’ve got someone who can do that,” when you don’t?

·           The client is always right syndrome — Have you ever been bullied by a client into committing to a technology solution that isn’t feasible?

All of these examples underscore the importance of expectation management.

Any of these instances can falsely raise a client’s expectations so high that there’s no chance to be successful as his SMB consultant. Many technically adept, well-meaning SMB consultants engage in self-defeating behavior with clients by not managing the client’s expectations well.

Expectation management strikes at the heart of what an SMB consultant is all about. In my opinion, an SMB consultant differs from a straight technician (tech head) in this aspect of the professional services relationship. Such an association requires relationship management, and to manage the relationship, the consultant has to manage expectations.

No matter what line of work you are currently in, I’m sure you’ve seen situations where expectations weren’t managed well. Based on your experiences, it probably wouldn’t be hard for you to develop your own example of how best to manage expectations.

BEST PRACTICE: Avoid surprises. That is one valuable fundamen­tal you can incorporate from this page forward. And nowhere is this basic principle more important than in client billings. Not only should you carefully delineate what charges are within and out­side of the project scope, but you might communicate to the cli­ent in advance (say, by e-mail or voicemail) that the invoice is on the way and these are the charges to expect. Hear me now that avoiding billing surprises is one of the best expectation manage­ment tricks around!


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