Educate your clients

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One aspect I love about consulting is working with so many people. I’m an outgoing person and like to interact with people. I also enjoy working with unique personalities.

The primary contact which I communicate with at my clients varies. With one client, I may work directly with their IT Director. Another might be the CFO. Sometimes it’s a combination of management and internal IT staff. This definitely keeps things interesting, as some are technical and others are non-technical individuals.

Pitching a project or discussing how an existing piece of technology works differs completely from person to person. The CFO has a different perspective and requirements than the HR Director. There could be concerns one group has where the others don’t. Being able to communicate and manage this can be difficult. Especially in consulting where you’re talking and working with non-technical managers. It’s a skill I don’t think we talk about enough.

A lot of job postings throw in “Communication” without saying much else. I think this happens as with IT or any form of technical position, the focus is on the technical skills first, and communication skills get thrown in at the end. I feel this needs to be “Educate clients on technology, trends, and advise on best practices”.

By educate clients I don’t mean to tell your client what a firewall is, or difference between a switch and a router. Believe it or not, mostly, they don’t care. I’m talking about balancing the technical side of what those devices do and how your proposal/solution provides value or optimizes their business. For example, I recently had a meeting with a CEO where he stated concerns about file access on the file server but then brought up looking at the firewall logs. I had to explain the difference between shared permissions and NTFS permissions. I also mentioned the fact the firewall logs don’t come into play with this but discussed how the previous week we reviewed Microsoft cloud app security and how we are planning to move all the files into SharePoint and OneDrive. With this we’d have more insight into the files from an auditing perspective. It also eliminates the cost of a file server.

I’ve worked with many people who get upset or irritated by having to explain concepts like the example I referenced. Everyone’s expertise is different. Don’t get annoyed that the head of accounting doesn’t quite understand why you’d want to configure VLAN’s. A big part of your job as a consultant is to educate your clients. Learn to embrace this.

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