Seth Godin had a GREAT blog post today. It was short, sweet, and really hit me between the eyes.

Who cares?

No one cares. That happens rarely.
Someone cares. That happens all the time, and it’s at the heart of our work.
Everyone cares. Almost never.
Someone is enough. In fact, someone is the entire point.

When it comes to exceeding expectations, you have to first set them, then exceed them. If you set expectations too high, you can often disappoint. If you set them too low, people tend to misinterpret them. Finding that middle ground, and exceeding expectations require someone who believes in your capabilities, and is overjoyed with the results.

That is what happened to me over a year-long journey.

Moving The Goal

When we decided to downsize and move from one state to another, we had a laundry list of things that we agreed were what we expected.

  • Better Weather (Chicago has nice weather parts of the year – more of that)
  • Lower Taxes (our property taxes were what some people pay for a 2 bedroom apartment or house payment)
  • Lower Cost of Living (just the basics but anything lower would be better)
  • Most Living space on the 1st floor

We had dreams and expectations, but other than that, we had no clue what we wanted in a house, location, or amenities. We just knew that we were ready for a change.

Having built a house before, we expected that we would just have to buy an existing one – especially with the current supply chain issues. Building one would probably be a hassle with having to pick out everything from brick colors to towel racks. We knew that when someone said it would be ready September 1st, it meant December or January 1st. We had experienced it before so our expectations were to expect the unexpected and hope for the best.

Once we settled on Raleigh as the destination, I flew down and met with realtors, and began the hunt. I was surprised about what we found.

The housing market was in overdrive. People were bidding 10-25% over the asking price, making our home value almost a wash to downsize. Bidding wars were heated, and you had something called Due Diligence, which was a non-refundable escrow that if you changed your mind, or found dead bodies in the crawl space (I am sure it's happened), you forfeit the money. That means that you could be out $30-$50,0000 making buying a different house near impossible. So, you had to be 100% sure before you bid. I was not expecting any of that.

Missing The Mark

While back in Illinois, we had to get our house ready to put on the market before we could even consider buying something new. I had to interview local realtors and had five apply (would have been 50 if I had the time because the market was so hot.) We settled on the one we thought COULD exceed expectations. For the sake of this discussion, let's call him/her Mark.

It all started normally and quickly. We had an offer before we were scheduled to list the house. Mark was in Colorado skiing, and we had to wait until late at night to discuss the offer with a tired realtor at the airport. Without getting deep into details, the offer exceeded our expectations but was based on the appraisal. From that point forward, we missed the Mark.

We had questions and issues with the bad appraisal that was costing us $30,000. Our lawyer had to negotiate with their lawyer while we waited for Mark to return phone calls. It seems he was more concerned with getting to closings to collect checks than getting our deal straight and in our best interest.

Things almost collapsed when the price was way lower than what we expected based on the offer. Also, the closing date was miscommunicated. Mark blamed the lawyer for the mishaps and miscommunication. In the end, we closed, and Mark called us from the closing to congratulate us while we were on the road after a rushed departure we were not ready for. Our lawyer exceeded our expectations, but Mark was a mistake that I made. Communication is so important to exceeding expectations, and Mark missed the mark on that… BIG TIME!

For The Win

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, I made a good decision and selected Jo and Richard from a group of realtors. They were all qualified, but Jo had a slant toward new construction, and that paid off. Jo found us a builder and a lot that matched the expectations of the floor plan we liked at around $150,000 less than what we would have paid for a used home. While we could not pick any options (all chosen by the builder), Jo assured us that we would love the final result based on pictures of samples that we saw. I took a lot of trust to put our home in the hands of a realtor and builder 1000 miles away.

In the end, our new home exceeded our expectations. We knew we were not building a luxury home (which was the last one we built), but we are not disappointed with the results.

  • Realtor Communication – Jo would call us constantly without prompt and drive to the lot to take pictures of the progress.
  • Builder Communication – The builder sent us weekly updates on progress and what to expect.
  • Home Construction – The lot was one of the best in the neighborhood and bigger than we expected.

In the end, the home exceeded our expectations with the quality of construction and amenities. The realtor went over and above, even though she could have made more selling us an existing home. The builder found and corrected flaws we never even saw during construction, and continues to communicate and deliver quality service even after we closed. And, we closed on the house almost two months earlier than expected!

Final Thoughts – Exceeding Expectations

So how can we use these examples to help us exceed expectations with our businesses and our customers?

Set Realistic Deadlines – It's easier to underpromise and overdeliver than it is to make excuses and soothe frayed nerves.

Over Communicate – Regular updates (even scheduled ones) help manage expectations

Deliver Quality – IF you are more worried about the check than the results, you will miss the Mark!

In the end, it was a stressful yet successful experience. I have to say that if I had to choose again, I wouldn't have chosen Mark as our realtor, but it may not have changed the final outcome. However, I am glad the final phase went smoother than expected giving us a softer landing in a new state and new home.

“Surround yourself with the best people and then get out of their way. Give them a chance to exceed your expectations and they usually will.”

— Anne Sweeney

I would love to hear about your challenges or successes in creating and exceeding expectations for your customers. How can you set better deadlines for your clients? Are customers engaged in your process? Do you deliver quality results even after the bill has been paid?

Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about how you exceed expectations.

To learn more about this and other topics on B2b Sales & Marketing, visit our podcast website at The Bacon Podcast.