We’ve all met them: gurus who are technically brilliant, and who don’t suffer fools gladly. They are technological dragon-slayers with the ability to untangle any problem, and leave everyone else feeling a mixture of admiration, embarrassment ("why didn't I think of that?") and perhaps even a little resentment.
Sure, it’s always good to have someone who can unravel the technological mess with a few keystrokes. But if the sales people come in and introduce the superhero/ guru/expert-in-all-things-technical, the customer is immediately on guard. “We’ll see just how expert this person really is.”
Think of this when you're trying to drum up business: if you introduce someone as a guru, you may be setting unreal expectations. You’re much smarter to promise small and deliver big. If that technical whizz does fix the unfixable, then let the customer say it after the fact. You want the customer to say "why didn't you tell me you were bringing a genius to save us?"
The Real Hero
We’ve all watched enough movies to know how the hero story really goes. First it starts with the world totally normal and the hero is just some ordinary guy. Suddenly, there is a new challenge and our hero is called to the adventure. Now the hero has to face incredible, superhuman challenges and so pushes back: “I can’t do it. It’s too much to ask.” Then what happens? The mentor steps in. Someone who has lived through great challenges and seen the victories. The mentor's role is not to save the world; it's to convince the hero to do it, or die in the attempt.
Now, as much as many of us may like to consider ourselves heroes or gurus, the customer doesn't need another hero; what the customer needs is a mentor. In other words, we techies or sales people are there not to tell the customer how brilliant we are. We don’t do ourselves any favours by walking in and saying “I’m the hero. I can save the day”. What we’re much smarter to do is to turn our customers into heroes. Show them the challenge (which they may be not fully addressing) and how they - the customer - can step in and deal with it. Show them that it is possible for themselves to improve their messy technical environment. With the help of a mentor.
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This blog post is not a strictly technical one but it addresses a real issue that I come across from time to time. Sales people: stop introducing us greybeards as gurus or heroes! We've got some experience - largely from learning from our own mistakes. What all the good techies I know have in common is this: they want to be mentors, very happy to share their knowledge and very willing to learn themselves. - Anthony English