If you have empathy, are tenacious, and want to help people build their dreams then please take a look at our open sales roles on Lever.
The way most companies do sales is broken. They might be winning accounts and posting numbers but if their approach only focuses on the current month or quarter then it’s more than likely that they’re prioritizing short term gains over building long-term relationships.
This makes client work less about understanding and more about transacting. We all have jobs with KPIs, targets, deadlines and so on but we’re also a social species. Given how much time we spend at work it’s important that we know, like and respect the people we have to deal with every day.
If you want to take a cold, economic approach it’s also far better for your bottom line to form strong bonds with clients and make them ridiculously happy with the service they’re getting.
That’s what drives repeat business, referrals and creates brand advocates who will amplify your voice so it can cut through the noise in a crowded marketplace.
That’s why we subscribe heavily to a relationship-based, empathy driven sales approach. For us sales is about connecting with people who have a tech problem we can help them solve. Our perspective is very consultative.
We focus on communicating the value we can bring to an organization. We give them the information they need to make good decisions to solve their current problems or capitalize on a new opportunity. We’re here to guide and advise – not corral or control.
In practical terms what are the elements that drive a valuable discovery process with a new client? There are six: empathy, listening, expertise, responsiveness, lighting the path and excitement. These are central to how we interact with clients and help them solve their needs. Let’s look at what each element involves.
Psychologist David Goleman says there are three kinds of empathy: cognitive empathy (awareness), social empathy (rapport), and empathetic concern (doing something about it). We’re intentional about recognizing the value of each kind.
At its core empathy is about using your imagination and drawing on your own personal experiences so you can see the world through another person’s eyes. Nobody wants to feel like another number.
We all want people to see us and acknowledge our pain, hopes, fears and dreams. It’s on this foundation that great relationships are built.
“We have two ears and one mouth and we should use them proportionally.” – Susan Cain
For most people listening is a passive skill that doesn’t require effort. In reality, listening is an active skill that requires work to improve. The key is to ask questions and learn the speaker’s own language. What words do they use? Do they say “recent” instead of “new”? This is quite literal.
Their specific word choice, metaphors and ideas have a unique and powerful meaning to them. When you then use their exact words in conversation with them they’ll feel understood.
One of the most frustrating feelings in the world is when you don’t feel understood. There’s actually a positive physical reaction in a person’s brain chemistry when they feel understood and a negative one when they don’t feel understood.
Staying in the moment and having mental presence is central to listening well. Realize that giving the speaker what they need to feel heard is as important as the actual content and decisions that occur during a conversation.
For our Project Engineers (PE), this means being totally present in the conversation – forget about what’s for lunch, or how to word that important email you need to send later today.
Listening may seem like something everyone does naturally, but that’s not the case. Julian Treasures, author of Sound Business, says that most people only “retain just 25% of what [they] hear.” If we only retained 25% of a client’s request then we’re not likely to deliver the experience they want and deserve.
Treasures uses the Sanskrit word, rasa, or essence, to teach his audiences how to listen and remember information. The key concepts are:
- Receive: pay attention to what the other person is saying.
- Appreciate: engage in the conversation by responding with affirmative noises.
- Summarize: after the other person has finished, sum up what they said to make sure you’ve got the story straight.
- Ask: ask questions to dig deeper or to clarify misunderstandings.
When an PE interacts with a customer, RASA helps them become aware of the customer’s true needs.
Hear The Unsaid
Great listening also means hearing the important things that aren’t said. For example, a CTO could ask “How do I know Gigster is going to ensure the code is top quality?” On the surface the question is about the quality of the shipped product.
The deeper concern that’s driving the question is: “am I going to get burned like I did last time I tried to outsource?” or “is this decision going to make me look bad to our investors?” A great PE will be able to read between the lines and address both the question asked and the underlying concern the client has.
Credibility & Expertise
Demonstrating empathy, making a client feel heard and building rapport means little if you can’t actually help a client with their practical needs.That’s why we need to build credibility and confidence that we can deliver the technology solutions the client needs.
There is no ‘hack’ for this. The way you you demonstrate credibility is to show your track record, get into the weeds on the tech (if the client is technical) and to demonstrate we’ve done this before with past clients.
That’s why most of the Gigster PEs we hire have been founders or developers. At some point in their careers they have stood exactly where the customer is standing and felt exactly what they are feeling. There’s no substitute for firsthand experience
For example, one of our PEs developer iPad apps at their last company. In that role, he outsourced his development wherever he could, using freelancers on oDesk as well as small and large dev shops. He’s seen what it looks like when projects run well and when they’re an absolute trainwreck.
When clients come to us he can draw upon his experience to address the concerns and questions they have.
Speed and Responsiveness
Part of our vision is to deliver the fastest path from idea to finished product. That’s why speed is a core value across the business. That means building tech faster than our competitors and it also means responding quickly to clients. Speed maintains momentum and makes clients more excited about the end result.
Everyone knows how it feels to send an email and wait weeks before getting a response. It’s not a good feeling. Contrast that with how impressed you are when you receive a thorough and succinct response within minutes.
Responsiveness is a sign that you’re dealing with A players. Most businesses market themselves as being extremely responsive but in reality this kind of speed and responsiveness is hard to find.
Speed is also a key part of the Purple Cow experience we deliver to our clients (exceptional talent and the benefits of AI are two other key elements). It’s why we turn quotes around faster than anybody else in the industry. Often we complete entire projects faster than other providers take to deliver a quote.
Giving Context, Setting Expectations & Lighting The Path
Every interaction with a client has a natural path it will take if you stick to the principles of empathy and listening.
The client’s path includes the context for the project they’re working on. These are the things happening in their business that impact their timeline and the results they’re looking to create with this project. To be truly helpful to a client you need to be aware of these considerations.
Once the PE knows the context, the goals and the constraints on the client side they can map the path ahead. The path can change but the PE should always make sure the client knows exactly where they are on the path and what the next steps are.
This creates clarity and removes ambiguity. Knowing what to expect is empowering. With this approach key issues and hurdles become defined and solvable. With this done a PE can make realistic commitments and set expectations.
The importance of setting expectations cannot be overstated. Let’s say a scoping process hits a key issue where a core technology will cost an order of magnitude more than the client expected.
The expectation the PE should set is that they’ll investigate alternative options and send a daily report before COB on the progress of that search. Note that the commitment isn’t that we’ll find a cheaper alternative (although that is the goal).
PEs should never make promises they can’t keep. Setting expectations and then consistently delivering against those expectations builds confidence and trust with the client. It also demonstrates that we’re organized and proactive.
When you map out the next steps in the process you’re lighting the path so that the client has visibility on what’s coming up. This allows both sides to prepare for important decisions and prevents last minute fire drills from happening. This is a far more productive and stress-free way to work together.
It’s much easier to drive projects forward when you bring passion and enthusiasm to the task at hand. Excitement is contagious and creates a positive atmosphere.
That positive atmosphere is a much more motivating and productive environment than one where everyone is grinding through the motions. It’s difficult to measure or quantify directly but it has a large impact on the success of a client experience with Gigster.
It’s also the difference between working with rising stars versus falling comets.
On the outside both organizations might look like they’re at the same level but their trajectory will determine the level of enthusiasm and drive they’ll bring to a client’s project. A company whose employees, including PEs, bring passion to their work has it’s best days in front of it, not behind it.
Proactively Adding Value & Continuous Improvement
A common question you hear people ask in Silicon Valley is “What’s your value-add?” We’ve taken that question and baked it into our culture here at Gigster. We’re always looking for ways that we can add value.
It’s important that our clients receive the best possible product and this is where a PE’s experience comes into play again. During the scoping process the PE looks for ways to add value and improve the product.
Adding value looks different for every customer. Because our PEs have a deep knowledge of product and of specific markets, often they can suggest improvements that hadn’t occurred to the client.
Other times adding value means introducing them to a strategic partner, helping them acquire their first users or featuring them on our blog.
Occasionally, it means recommending that the customer not build certain features or reduce the scope of the product in some way.
We want their product to be as successful as possible, and if removing features will give their product a better outcome then it’s a suggestion we’re willing to make. Of course, the final decision rests with the client.
We Think Differently – Do You?
We do sales differently here at Gigster and we’re proud of that. If you have empathy, are tenacious, and want to help build people’s dreams please take a look at our open sales roles on Lever.