This post is my follow-up on a recent discussion on twitter.
Working for a VAR (Value Added Reseller) is not always the glamours life some make it out to be.
Working as a consultant, what you are really doing, is being the CEO of your own service company.
What you are selling, is basically your own services. The fact that your paycheck is being signed by someone else doesnt/shouldnt really matter.
The customer is building a relationship with you, as much as the company you are working for.
On top of that, you are continually building rapor in the networking world, so in my opinion, I would rather leave the customer with a good solution, rather than having to stick with the insane budgets that sales people end up shaving a project down to, just to get the contract.
So what can you do to create the outcome that is beneficial for all parties concerned (The customer, Your employer and yourself)?
Well, what I have tried in the past, is try and emphasize the importance of leaving the customer with the right solution based on his/her requirements and constraints. This discussion should involve both the technical side of things, as well as any account manager(s)/sales people involved. Try and focus on the long term results, such as customer satisfaction and reoccurring sales because of it.
Toward the customer, do your best to explain why solution X is better than Y, because of the requirements that are in place. Most people are sensible enough that, if you just take your time to explain the solution and have your reasoning in place, they will understand. Both of these (explaining and reasoning), is important for you to build the before mentioned rapor with the customer.
In the end, you should end up with a customer that will ask you for advice when in need, and trust your judgement when you recommend a solution. By doing this you effectively put the “fluff” from the account manager(s) aside and focus on the important work.
As engineers, we tend to focus on the technical side of a solution, but to be successful in our role(s), we also need to pay attention to the human/social aspect. Personally, this is an ongoing exercise, which I try to be very cognitive about when engaging with the customer.
So to summarize:
– Be a teamplayer, but know you are the one who has to face the customer regularly.
– Do your best to understand the customer and his/her requirements.
– Take your time to explain your solution to the customer.
– Never take the customer for granted.
– Pay attention to the social/human aspect when engaging with both the customer and your coworkers.
Now go and have a sit-down with that customer of yours!