The Peace & Power of a Positive Perspective


I hate that word!

“Assume”.  How many times do we hear that word in our business world?  And in the sales profession (many others, too I suppose), we all know what they say about that word and what it makes out of the parties “u” and “me”.    But when we hear that word from a brand, new client, it is particularly disappointing, true?  

I was on the phone with a new client of ours recently.  Although I wasn’t the lead sales person on the account, I had met them during their evaluation process.  My job over the next few months is to help enable them to be a reseller for my company.  During this recent phone conversation, I must have heard the phrase, “we had assumed” containing that word at least ten times.  And they expressed it within a connotation of disappointment.  I hate that word

Oh, we had tried during their evaluation process to set proper expectations. My sales team thought we were pretty good at expectation-setting, too.  Until Murphy and his network of unknown sages, seers and soothsayers reminded us of: 

Naeser’s Law: 

You can make it foolproof, but you can’t make it damn-fool-proof. 

So, here we are playing the unpopular game of sales-catch-up, called, “resetting the customer’s expectations”.  Ever play that game?  Not fun.  No matter how hard we try, our new customer will still have a feeling of disappointment instead of delight, yes? 

Of course, there is the “u” in that word, not just “me”.  When we hear our customer say, “We had assumed”, we sometimes would like to say, “Hold on a minute…”  For the first miss-set expectation; and the second; sometimes even the third; I’m willing to accept responsibility.  As a sales professional, I do this for a living.  So I take responsibility for addressing things the customer doesn’t even know should be addressed.  After all: 

Answering the unasked question, what someone really wants to know – that’s a really special skill. 

                             Unknown Sage 

However, when our customer persists in being a bit “clueless” about reality; when our customer continues to state disappointment based on that word; we would like to reach the point of calling out the “u” in that word; but we don’t, do we.  No; funny thing about having that “really special skill”; if we claim to have it – then we have to stand by it; even when we start to wonder if our client has moved beyond a few miss-set expectations and is now actually re-negotiating. 

Yes, in the business world leveraging advantages in negotiations can appear even after the deal is done, don’t you think? Obtaining additional vendor-concessions can appear when a new client expresses disappointment about their assumptions and the sales rep tries to make up for their disappointment.  When we do that, the feeling of this concession moves back to the “me” in that word, and we start to hear the Aretha Franklin song, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” 

Yet in our profession, managing our customers’ expectations (and assumptions) comes with the territory.  As has been said many times by our unknown sages, seers and soothsayers: 

The customer may not always be right; but the customer is always the customer. 

And, I would add the words of a former colleague of mine, Gary Givan: 

There is no profit in putting a customer in their place. 

So I guess that means to us sales professions that the “me” takes precedence over the “u” in that word; that dreaded word! 


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  1. Debbie
    Nov 08, 2011

    You know what they say assume means. I don’t like hearing that word either.

  2. Bill Foss
    Nov 08, 2011

    Nicely said, Gary. It’s a good thing that opposing basketball players weren’t customers.

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