Without honesty, you risk creating false expectations, even if you don’t realize it. In the long term, this can create dissatisfaction and bitterness that could have negative repercussions. Here are some situations we went through that demonstrate that honesty really is the best policy.
Don’t Try to Please Everyone
Pretty frequently, prospects reach out to us with a need that differs slightly from what our platform offers. In the past, we used to try and satisfy them with what we had. But when that prospect became our client, they’d often turn around and demand we extend our features according to their needs. As a result, we had to offer them more support, and yet they’d still remain unsatisfied. Now, we tell prospects up front what our platform can and can’t do. If it doesn’t fit their needs, we suggest another solution. Even if some of them are surprised by this, they always end up loving our honesty. It could even encourage people to opt for our services, since our clear expectations and boundaries avoid bad surprises. We also receive fewer special requests.
Don’t Create Expectations or Set Deadlines
Every day, we receive new client requests. Some even demand a deadline. In our software development context, it’s quite often impossible to say exactly when the work will be done. Previously we would give an approximate deadline, but when we wound up late, we felt clients’ significant dissatisfaction. This also put unnecessary pressure on our team.
Now, if a feature isn’t part of our development cycle for the following quarter, we simply tell clients that it’s not in our plans. The only time when we reveal a feature rollout is right before updates. We prefer that clients choose us for what we currently offer rather than for what we might or might not offer in the future. Here again, being honest from the outset avoids false expectations.
Learning to Say No
We regularly receive requests from collaborators who offer complementary software and wish to make our system and theirs communicate.
In the past, when a collaborator wished to meet with us to discuss integration, we gladly accepted. But those meetings usually didn’t lead to any concrete action. As a result, they ended up being a waste of time for both parties.
We now tell our collaborators right out of the gate that we’re only focusing on integrations with payroll systems for the next year. We decline any other offers. By being clear and specific about our goals, we prevent our collaborators from harboring false expectations, and thus avoid wasting their time.
We very rarely go to our clients’ place of business. We only do so when it’s necessary: when it’s a major client and several people have to be there. And even then, we prefer doing the first meeting over the phone to determine their level of interest in our product. In all other cases, when a client asks for an in-person meeting, we tell them upfront about our process. This avoids unnecessary travel and expenses every year.
What’s more, since we have effective tools, online meetings aren’t any less efficient. While most of our clients are in Quebec, we also have clients across the world. Going to see each and every one in person simply wouldn’t be possible for us, since we’re based in Sherbrooke.
Potential clients are often taken aback by our process, since they’re used to meeting providers in person. But few ever say our way of doing things gets in the way of profitable collaboration.
Comparing Us to the Competition
Potential clients sometimes compare us to our competition. We could easily list all their weaknesses to make ourselves look better and show that we’re the best. The problem is that doing so can lead to inaccurate statements about them or us. It could also counterproductively heighten expectations.
We’re not experts on our competition’s products. The market is fast evolving, and we prefer focusing on our software and on how it makes peoples’ lives easier.
This is why we’d rather ask the client about their real needs and issues, so we can explain how our product can help them.
A bit of advice: Never lose time measuring yourself up to others or disparaging them. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
In short, the benefits of honesty blow its supposed disadvantages out of the water. Always being honest requires a lot of courage, but tell yourself that if a client doesn’t respect you for what you offer or who you really are, you likely don’t share the same values. In that case, it’s better to keep them at a distance. In business as in friendly relationships, shared values make for a stronger foundation.