My favorite story about setting expectations comes from a really smart real estate agent.
When you decide to buy or sell a house with her, she gives you a pre-printed list of all the things that can happen during the process of buying or selling.
A list of 20 or 30 things that could delay the sale or otherwise go wrong might seem like a bad thing to give to a customer, but it works for her.
She explains that the list contains the most common roadblocks encountered during a transaction and assures the customer that she knows how to handle all of them.
If and when they occur, she’ll call and say “Number 16 on your list just happened, and I’ll take care of it.”
Works for me
How does this work for her?
First off – it shows the buyer/seller that she is experienced and is prepared for the little things that come along and try to derail a transaction. By discussing them in advance, she sets expectations, establishes her expertise (again, by warning you about these things in advance and telling you she has your back) and leaves you far more confident about things.
If trouble occurs, the sheet (which also acts as a timeline) shows that she predicted that it could occur and handled it for you vs. the appearance that this could be a surprise.
Once the transaction is done, the list serves as a reminder of all the things that *could* have gone wrong but didn’t. The list also reminds you of the value she delivered by taking care of all those things.
She could have simply provided a generic FAQ list and made the client sign it (likely without reading it) and handle it like other agents handle these things.
Instead, she leverages it into an advantage that – among other things – demonstrates why the client should value her services.