If you’re going to help a client solve a problem, it’s not enough to be curious. In most cases you’ll need to understand the problem and have compassion for the person who faces that problem each day.
Note: In this post I am referring to software consulting (both functional and technical) but this applies equally to any situation where you're learning about somebody and their work.
There’s a subtle difference here from empathy — actually feeling what the client feels — or sympathy — understanding what they are feeling. I’m talking about compassion: a concern for the situation the client is in and a desire to improve that situation. Another way I’ve phrased this in the past is you need to care about your client. (I might also have said a variation that included “give a …”
Smash-and-grab consultants are a dime a dozen and they're cheaper than you are. If you want to drop your “solution” onto a client and run away, compassion will only waste your time and get in the way. If you’re looking for a productive longer term business partnership though? Giving a darn about your client is not negotiable.
An unsatisfied client means no future work from them, so you’re back into sales and lead generation. If you actually care about what challenges they have you are going to arrive at a more complete solution. Longer term you’ll build a trusting relationship, which leads to further work: it’s a win-win.
This post is part 2 of the Good Consulting series:
- Why curiosity and inquisitiveness make for a good consultant
- Why compassion is non-negotiable for good consultants
- We need to change our mind more readily.