When pigs fly!

That’s what my Dad told me when I asked for a new car for my 16th birthday. I fully expected to get one; after all, my friends received new cars for their epic day. However, my expectations weren’t met and my lack of a shiny new IROC-Z serves as a reminder to manage expectations. Let me explain.

You must understand your customer’s priorities. Without this, there’s no way you can even start to manage expectations. You have to know what keeps your customers up at night before you can help them fix those problems. Once you understand their priorities, you can manage expectations. If I had known my parents already had purchased a perfectly acceptable used car for my birthday, I could have managed my expectations.

You see, we weren’t on the same page. We didn’t talk about a used car – I only asked (well, begged is a better word) for a new car. And you cannot understand priorities and expectations without open and frequent communications. You cannot know what your audience/customer wants by reading up on them through an RFP or via their website; no, you must speak with them. And you must speak with them regularly. You must ask questions to ensure you’re on the same page regarding your capabilities and their needs. This open communication determines their expectations from you too.

Talk about the next steps with your customer and follow up with them. After each meeting, I say what is expected of me so no one is confused (especially me). I include next steps and due dates while checking the room for agreement.

Everyone always talks about under promising and over delivering – but more importantly, set realistic expectations that your customer/audience wants. Ensure you set these goals with your customers’ input. Involve them in the goal setting process and they’ll be sure to appreciate it and thank you. Under promising and over delivering means nothing if it isn’t something your audience desires.


Melissa Wagner is a skilled proposal manager with 20+ years of strategy, proposal development, and marketing success supporting both Government and commercial clients. At Edwards she worked closely with others across organization to create winning proposals and develop the Edwards brand in the marketplace.