At Affectiva, we are all about artificial emotional intelligence (Emotion AI). But that is only because we know how human emotional intelligence matters in every aspect of our workplace, and especially in how we understand and handle our clients and partners.
To be successful, it is imperative that you not only know the organizations you work with, but more specifically, you have to know the actual people you work with within these organizations, understand what their personal goals and motivations are. In short: to be successful you need to humanize your clients. Seeing clients as people with goals and desires helps you to understand their perspective, animating their existence beyond a line item in a sales pipeline report.
Recently, we were engaged with an international company that was building an interactive exhibit with our emotion recognition technology for one of the largest technology events in the US. Their developers were experiencing difficulty integrating our technology into their interactive digital experience. The event was approaching fast and they were clearly running out of time. Our sponsor at the company (let's call her Maria) was sending emails that sounded both angry and desperate.
I urged my team to rally and go the extra mile in helping our partners out.
One evening, while several of us were up late implementing and testing various scripts to help that company, I stopped to ask myself, why did I jump in to save this account?
It was not because they are an "account" and if we didn't help, we wouldn't get paid. It was not because if we didn't help, they would never come back. It was also not because we are "committed to customer success" (we are of course ... but that's not exactly what drove me to chime in).
The real reason I urged the team to rally around this account was simple: I felt for Maria. I could empathize with her situation. This young woman was responsible for this project in front of the company's president. In addition, because her company was the only company from her country present at this US event, she "did not want to let her country down". Her career and her team's reputation were at stake. I realized that if I were in her shoes, I'd be panicking too. But I also realized that I'd be grateful for any extra help I could get.
Success is rarely about having the best, the most or the cheapest features in a product. Instead, it is almost always about knowing what matters to your sponsor in a client or partner account and delivering on that. Inevitably it is about helping these individual sponsors be successful in their jobs, helping them make a difference to their corporate goals, making them look good in front of their leadership and advancing their careers.
Here are 2 ways you can bring emotional intelligence to understand your client:
1) Figure out what career goals the people who work for your clients have
One of our partners is a large Japanese automotive company. As it turns out, our contact there has only been there for less than a year and this project is one of the first he's taking on. Just as we need to prove ourselves to this guy, he needs to prove himself in front of his leadership team. When we go the extra mile delivering on this project, we help this guy--who is half way around the world--show that he has vision, leadership and execution skills. I find that incredible.
2) Give credit to partners and champion success stories
We go out of our way to turn the users of our technology into developer heroes. That is true whether they are a large company or a young startup or a developer who is integrating our SDK into a new user experience. We call the latter our developer heroes, and we spotlight them on our website, mention them in press interviews. We take pride in what they've build. We relentlessly promote our client stories to help them be successful.
So back to that exhibit. The interactive exhibit was very successful and we ultimately saved this account and the project sponsor was very grateful. In fact, she was even happy to mention us in all their press interviews. I am very grateful to my team who rallied to make this project successful.
Remember: don't let the pressures of doing business get in the way of what doing business is truly about: building relationships with people. And as with any relationship, professional or personal, the more emotional intelligence you exhibit, the more successful you will be.
Would love to hear your thoughts--how do you apply emotional intelligence with your clients?