Dec
17
2013

Communication is Key

December 17, 2013

Communication is a strange beast. It can destroy relationships, and it can win you clients. It can make you sound knowledgeable, or make it seem like you have no idea what you're doing.

Here are a few small tips on communication from a consulting perspective:

Learn how to talk to people

I have a client that I've worked with for a few years now. When having a discussion with them back in October, I was told that one of the reasons they enjoy working with me is because I know how to talk to them. That statement was not to imply that I have great sales tactics, but that I've developed an ability to explain technical topics in a simple, easy to understand way.

If you're a developer-turned-consultant, you probably fall into this trap all the time and find yourself having to take a mental step back when explaining things. Always remember to dial back the complexity in a conversation.

Discover your style

Style = personality. If you the type to crack an occasional joke, do it. If you're a bit quirky, go for it. If you sound like you're giving a formal lecture to a client when you're on a conference call with them, you're probably doing it wrong. Relax and stay professional, but let your personality shine through. This has a wonderful side benefit - it makes your client feel as if they are talking with a friend, and less like they are talking to a co-worker or someone who just cranks out code.

Technical jargon is not a style

Save the tech-heavy talk for meetup groups. Avoiding jargon and simplifying your discussion will boost client confidence and understanding. They're already impressed with your technical skills or they wouldn't be talking to you.

Explain how you are solving a problem

This is not the same thing as what you are using to solve the problem. Most of the time clients don't care what technologies you use, they just care about the outcome. So talk about what they can expect after finishing a project or portion of a project.

Followup

Make it a point to reach out to clients periodically and see how things are going for them. I'd advise keeping this information in a CRM of some sort, both the date you should follow up, and what you've talked about in the past. Maybe you want to keep track of the anniversary of the company, or reach back out 6 months after an engagement to see how your work has changed their business. You'll be shocked at how much people appreciate a simple gesture like this. Note: Followups are a perfect time to ask for a testimonial!

Practice

If you're experiences are anything like mine you will fumble through conversations with your first few clients. Just keep at it, and with practice you'll get much better.

Learn to communicate well, and I'll bet your clients will start talking more about you to others.

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