This post is a little off our usual focus on trust, but we felt it was important to share. It's about empathy, and why it's so important to put yourself in situations where you can truly understand your customers' pain.
There’s a lot of reasons why you do the work you do. Sometimes it’s that you are just good at what you do and other times it’s because it’s a logical progression from the career path you’ve chosen. And yeah, it can be just be about the money. 😏 But it can also be because you feel passionate about something, or you have experienced pain or a need so vividly that it’s a path you have no choice but to take. I was reminded of that this last week.
At Stones Insight (the founders of FakeNot™), our clients are typically small, lean teams that don’t have the time or money to do traditional research. We commit to being focused on our target audience, but you know how it is. Sometimes you get an unexpected chance to pitch a fantastic company that’s outside your core target, and you just can’t pass it up.
You debate if you should pitch, but when you commit to going for it, it becomes a mind-blowing, heart-racing, adrenaline-producing scrum to 1) learn everything about the situation that you can, and 2) create a killer deck that will stand out. Your team goes through a hero’s journey to achieve an impossible task. You push through, don’t sleep, and then end up giving an awesome, caffeine-fueled presentation. Honestly, there’s no feeling like it when you finish.
Secretly, you think you got it. Then you get the call that you weren’t selected and I think the best way to describe it is that it sucks all the energy right out of you. Then you have to tell your team, and it sucks the energy right out of them. It hits everyone’s morale, and although you shouldn’t, you take it personally. You blame yourself; you blame fate, you ask why in the hell did you make the pitch anyway? Even when you learn you were up against a qualified and liked incumbent, it helps a little, but it still stings. A lot.
A mentor described for me once how in nature, transformation and growth only come following great pressure. That’s very true, and accordingly, we learned some great lessons through this experience which will make future pitches even better. But I’m writing this for one reason, and that is that it reminded us of why we focus on helping small teams win pitches. We know how it feels to put your heart and soul into something and have it not work out. And through experiencing that pain, it drives us. It gets us up every morning to go to work. And as hard as it is to feel, it makes us better.
The primary lesson out of this for me is that no matter what job you have, remember how important it is to experience your customers' lives. If you are putting yourself in situations where you, personally, can experience what your customers are going through, you’ll develop empathy for them that will remind you of why you focus your work. An even more significant benefit, though, is it will make you a kinder, more understanding, and open human being. That, by itself, is worth it.