The Top Soft Skills IT Professionals Must Master

Service with a smile

In this day and age, businesses rely on their IT professionals more than ever before – and they have much larger demands. After all, the IT people are the experts. They must provide a one-stop shop for the entire business and, lets face it, if everyone had the technical know-how, IT professionals wouldn’t be needed.

IT pros must not only possess the technical skills, but the skills to effectively communicate with clients, both internally and externally. Why must great communication skills be in the arsenal? IT professionals don’t go into IT to deal with customer service concerns.

The reality of today’s IT market is that professionals are not only expected to be on top of the latest technological advances, but they must also be able to clearly convey the 5 “W’s” for customers to perceive that they’ve not only addressed their concerns but to make them feel as if they’ve received some value-added benefit. Let’s face it, while most all team players have different skill sets and talents, at the end of the day, the result is the same as any developer on the job.

What sets one IT professional apart from another is how well and how clearly the information is communicated from the company to the client. Clear and easy to understand expectations, delivery, and engaging material that produces tangible results are paramount to success. Simply producing a quick fix or results without any supporting material or documentation are no longer what impresses a client. Anyone can do that; it’s the expectation, not a luxury.

In this article, we’ll share several tips that are easy to implement and will not only earn a client’s business but retain it throughout the years. With little to no expense, IT professionals can wow clients and cut down on unnecessary time spent making corrections and revisions. Implementing these changes is quick and easy and produces nearly immediate results.

How does this affect me?

If an IT company or professional is getting less than glowing reviews, something is getting lost in translation. Take these factors into consideration:

A Harris poll of hiring managers shows that 77 percent of employers consider soft skills to be as important as technical skills.

It’s no secret that IT professionals embrace jargon. After all speaking in “code” keeps us relevant and makes us sound intelligent. The problem is that we sometimes forget that we need to put away the jargon.

Translate the information into “plain” language. If this seems to be quite a challenge, consider reevaluating the information as if you were going to teach it to a high school or junior college class. Check for understanding. Ask the client if he or she is following what you’re saying.

Another great way to check for understanding is to ask the client what he or she thinks or how it sounds so far. Avoid yes/no questions – a nod isn’t sufficient enough to gauge the client’s true feelings. This tip will go a long way. If they don’t understand, they’ll most likely tell you; after all, they’re paying you a generous fee for your services, not to hear the alphabet in incorrect order.

The people who will thrive are the strong technologists who are capable of translating their expertise into terms that nontechnical people can understand. -Ben Gaucherin, Harvard University

Role play meetings and presentations with co-workers

You wouldn’t state that a project was complete without testing it, right? It’s a great idea to do a “dry run” with co-workers or even your family if permitted. Have them ask questions you may anticipate, or if they have any questions. Choose the most brutally honest co-worker to throw you some questions or concerns, and ask them what they liked about the presentation.

Conduct Surveys

Take the client’s temperature. Draft a survey and ask them to provide valuable feedback. Most clients will be happy to do this, and they’ll typically provide legitimate responses, and often times compliments.

Take a public speaking class and join a meetup group

Chances are you’re not the only person that is interested in personal and professional growth. Classes and groups provide a great opportunity to brainstorm with other professionals who have the same concerns. Meetup groups will often provide you with a wealth of networking opportunities and are localized and even specialized, so you can discuss any matters relevant to the area you work in.

Keep your skills sharp

It’s clearly established that communication can be a problem in the IT world. Communicating outdated information ineffectively can only lead to impending doom. Be certain to stay ahead of the curve to avoid the pitfall(s) of being (or becoming) irreverent.

Your call to action

Effective communication in the workplace is essential to success. Communication is what makes the difference between whether a client chooses to become a valuable repeat customer, or whether they continue on riding the pricing wave; giving their loyalty to the lowest bidder.

Today’s consumers have a far greater advantage than they did even a few years ago. Not only do they expect quantity, but they’re expecting quality as well. You’d probably expect the same if you were in the same boat. Taking simple steps to improve communication will not only provide an immediate benefit in the quality of work performed, but in the quantity as well.

The productivity factor will most likely increase as a result of not having to fix problems caused by miscommunication. Not only will your clients be happy, but you’ll be making the business climate and revenue charts happier as well.