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After having built a little cozy pre-fabricated house for our house caretaker, Abed, in my little village of Aytat, in Mount Lebanon, this past summer, Abed expressed his bit of disappointment with the bathroom walls when I went back for Christmas vacation. Apparently, he did not really like that his bathroom walls were left naked without the typical top-to-bottom tiled walls we are usually used to in any traditional home. 

So, Abed approached me and expressed his desire to have his bathroom walls tiled up. After some negotiation, we agreed that I would buy his tiles along with all the needed material, as long as he does the tiling himself. Of course, he was more than happy to accept such a deal. After all, he was getting a whole new bathroom to his already brand new house. 

Well, this introduction is not the story of my article! My story starts now :)

When we reached the tile store in the neighboring village of Baysour, and after Abed and I got done selecting the size and color of the tiles he wanted, the saleswoman helping us called on this young gentleman to answer a few questions regarding the proper bonding she needs to sell us for that particular type of tiles.

The young gentleman, by the name of Wael, introduced himself to us and of course recommended the proper bonding to use. During the little chit chat we were having, Wael started asking us some details about the tiling job we intended on doing. At first, I just thought that he was being nosy and that he was simply trying to get us to hire him to do the job for us. But I was totally wrong! He just wanted to make sure that we knew what we were doing. 

After I made it very clear to him that it’s going to be Abed and his friend doing the tiling, he became more interested in sharing with us exactly what needs to be done in order to get the job done properly. He pulled us aside and started writing down notes for us with every little detail, from mixing the different adhesives we’re buying to the proper way of tiling the walls.

For a few moments, I was kind of shocked and impressed at the same time. This gentleman was really after our well-being, giving us all the information we needed and writing them down for us. I mean, this is a guy that we don’t even know at all. Why in the world would Wael be going out of his way to share with us all the little details we need to follow, knowing well in advance that he’s not going to have anything to do with this job. All he needed to do was simply recommend what type of bonding we needed to buy and just move on. I mean isn’t that what most salesmen do?

Well, not all…for sure! Only the typical salesmen do that. Professional ones take it a few steps further. In fact, it’s just two steps further that they have to take, which I will explain next. 

Of course, from a business perspective, not only was he doing things right, he was doing the right thing! 

In our field of coaching and training, we often introduce a very powerful concept in sales that consists of only 4 steps. This concept is called the “4 Expectations of Customers”.

I first read about this concept in the ever popular international bestseller “first break all the rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, 1999. 

So, what is this concept all about?

Below is the 4-level triangle of customer expectations I want to introduce you to and have you relate to my story. These 4 customer expectations are very well consistent no matter what industry we’re involved in. 

Keep in mind that those 4 levels build on each other. This is to say that you cannot jump from one level to the other if the previous level is not genuinely demonstrated, through building rapport, qualifying the customer, and asking the right questions.  

Level 1: In this first level, customers simply expect ‘Accuracy’. All they want to know is if a particular store sells some particular product or service they are looking for. So in my case, my very first expectation was to find out where to find a tile store that sells tiles for bathroom walls. That was very easy to find and my very first expectation was very well met. 

Level 2: Customers expect ‘Availability’. So, the very next step is to find out whether that store is not only in the business of selling your particular product or service, but whether it carries what you’re looking for. Again, in my case, that was also easy to find out and my second expectation was very well met when the saleswoman assured us that they do indeed sell bathroom tiles. 

Before going any further, let me just clarify something here. Those first 2 levels are very much in the conscious mind and that is why these are the most expected by the vast majority of customers. In fact, these 2 levels only prevent customer disappointment and nothing else! In other words, those first 2 levels of customer expectations may only meet customer expectations but do not exceed customer expectations since they are only rational.  

Now, the next 2 levels are more in the subconscious mind. They are usually not expected by customers most of the time, but if provided by salespeople, a strange and good feeling is felt and experienced by the customer. This is where customer expectations start to being exceeded. 

If the first 2 levels are associated mainly with being efficient, doing things right by quickly providing customers with the very basic expectations, what is more important though, is not only being efficient but also being effective by doing the right thing!

Surely, providing customers with only the first 2 levels, they might to the most part be satisfied. This is what all typical salespeople usually do. But hold on! Do we really want to be like any typical salesperson? I don’t think so. We all aspire to be regarded as being that professional salesperson. We all dream of being different from the rest. We all want to be stars. Is that something impossible to reach? Of course not! We can all reach that professionalism by simply taking care of 2 extra steps in that triangle. And boom! You’re on your way to stardom! This is where we have to go up 2 extra levels and make our customers feel something different, something good…not just good, but really good. This is where your emotional part takes over.

Levels 3 and 4 require some extra effort on our part. They require something that surely not all salespeople can provide. These 2 extra levels complete the journey of the customer. Not only do they prevent negative feelings of dissatisfaction, but instead, they create positive feelings of satisfaction. 

Level 3 is all about ‘Partnership’. When customers feel that you are there for them, listening to them, showing that you are on their side, they start looking at you as being someone who’s after their interest and well-being. They see you as a caring person. They see you as a person who’s there for them and not only for themselves. Think about it! That guy, Wael, at the tile store made sure to pull us aside and provide us with all the extra information. He made us listen to him because we felt that it was in our best interest to listen to him. 

But this is not enough. After you take the customer on a different level in his or her journey, you can’t just stop there. You have to step up to level 

Level 4 is all about ‘Advice’. When you start providing your customers with advice that will help them further understand what needs to be done, they start connecting with you. This is where you are perceived as an expert and not just a salesperson. They see you as a trustworthy person. When they feel that you are giving them all the attention they need, they will surely come back to you. Not only would they come back to you, but they will also refer friends and family members to you. When you help them learn, they come back to you because they now see you as a consultant…as an advisor. And this is how loyalty is developed. It’s not just the products, but more importantly, it’s the people behind the products that bread loyalty. 

Those 2 last steps cannot be faked. They are so personalized that those last 2 steps require talent…the talent to listen, the talent to share, the talent to care, the talent to teach, and the talent to help. 

If you can do this successfully, you are a star!