Recently, I was recognized by the sponsors of a project for something I didn’t know.
That is, the praise was for the questions asked and not the answers given. This an unusual concept, especially for a consultant who has been hired in the past for his expertise.
The subject was related to software selection. The client was reviewing a software solution to assist with data migration and asked me to join the call to evaluate the technology.
While I did not have much experience with this other technology, I was in a unique role on the engagement as the technical architect and I felt privileged to field questions from the vendor’s sales team.
While the questions were simple in nature, the answers helped to influence possible architectural approaches and the client’s purchase decision.
What were some of the questions?
- How do the interfaces work?
- What objects are compatible?
- Is there is set of pre-made artifacts?
- How are new data records handled?
- How are system changes handled?
Pro Tip: Customers love documentation. I forwarded the questions and answers to the project sponsor, who forwarded it to his team members for their consideration.
Getting back to the subject at hand, I would have been hesitant to ask such rudimentary questions at the beginning my career. At that time, I was too busy learning the technology and too embarrassed to admit much of what I didn’t know.
Several projects into my career, I have gained enough experience to confidently state what I do know and openly admit what I do not know. Customers (I believe) appreciate that level of honesty.
And by defining the boundaries where I excel in contrast to areas where others are better suited, I have found (paradoxically) that my customers consider my suggestions more thoroughly when the advice is related to my field of expertise.
Of course, there varied approaches to providing value and establishing a good working relationship. This one simply caught me off-guard.
What have you found to be effective in establishing your expertise and building rapport?
I believe there’s an incredible story hidden in every team. The way I share the lessons in these stories is through conversation and data. I just happen to build the analytics that asks the next question.