It has happened to us all, you have been in a meeting with a customer and had a really good session. It may have been about a small opportunity or the framing of a larger project…
You leave the meeting (or video call nowadays) and put together what you believe the outcome was. You email this across to the customer and wham! the response you get is not what you expect and it has now created an awkward situation.
Typically the customer reflects back a different outcome and is sure that is what was agreed. Their view is often more favourable to them and sometimes quite considerably in their favour. Not an easy position to come back on. You don’t want to create a negative situation with the customer, but also you don’t want to agree to a deal that may not suit.
What are the options?
- Grin and bear it. You may recover the difference later
- Correct the customer’s position. Could work but they will have to back down and not everyone is keen on doing that
- Avoid the position in the first place.
Although option 1 and 2 are both viable option 3 is where you want to be.
How to avoid the oh! moment
The way in which this situation can be avoided is to not let it happen in the first place. You need to ensure that you summarise the position at the end of the meeting, but not as a final close. Agree to a way forward in principle.
a. Summarise the points that have been discussed
b. Get agreement with the customer that these are correct. Step through each point and offer clarification if needed
c. Then, tell the customer you will write up the points and send them across. Once you both have them in writing you can then review and confirm
Step c works like magic. The customer knows that you are going to step through the points again and is in an open frame of mind to clear up any confusion that may arise. Seeing things in writing often elicits a different interpretation from the spoken version and you will be working with the customer to resolve any points rather than correcting them!. You will find that it is a straightforward and non confrontational method.
I have used this approach many times and it has always worked out well.