Consulting is not a new occupation, it’s been around as long as people have needed advice and guidance. But what separates good consultants from the great ones? The ones that provide real value for their clients as opposed to the ones in it for a nice cheque. Here are three keys to being a truly great consultant.
Listen & Question
A consultant’s primary role is to guide and advise their clients. That’s why the clients shell out the big bucks, right? A consultant cannot do this effectively without first understanding the client’s situation and where they want to go. Listen to your client, understand what it is they are really seeking and why they have brought you in.
I recall early on in my career when I was shadowing who I consider to be one of the best consultants I’ve ever worked with and noticed how much they pushed back on their own client. I thought for sure we’d be getting shown the door when the client was told their processes were wrong and how most of their day to day operations were being questioned by this consultant. But I was amazed at how the client was responsive to this method of analysis and they basically copped to the consultant saying that it was they way they’ve done it for years and they saw no need to change. As a consultant it’s your job to understand the real problems that the client is needing to solve, even if that means pushing back on what they feel is currently working for them.
Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution
I was at a conference a few years back and this was one of the breakout session topics and it’s been front of mind for me ever since. I recall back in my developer days where I would come up with some elegant solution to a problem that really didn’t meet all the needs of the client but it was so cool that I felt I could overlook some of it’s shortcomings in how it addressed the client’s problem. And you guessed it – the solution fell flat on its face which is why this statement really resonates with me. When a client brings you in, it’s to help them solve a problem they cannot solve themselves. A lot of consultants come armed with solutions to the problems before they even hear the problems out from the client. A good consultant will dig deep, really work the problem to understand every angle of it before landing on a solution for it. Get heavily invested in the client’s problems, feel their pain, understand their needs before looking at the silver bullet that’s going to make their lives better.
Always View from the Customer Experience
As consultants, we are always outsiders to the organization and by default don’t see things the way the customer sees them. It’s key to couple your knowledge and experience with the perspective that the client has and understand what it is that they are facing. This is particularly apt when recommending solutions to problems – while the solution may work for someone of your knowledge and experience, is it the right fit for your client? Can they adopt the technology needed to support your solution? Are they cloud-savvy (or cloud-ready)? Do they have the support staff in place to be successful with your proposed solution? It’s not a one-size-fits-all and the customer perspective needs to be heavily considered when making recommendations for any enterprise-based solution.
Being a good consultant is a constant challenge, but a good one. As a consultant you are looked upon as the expert in the room, the person that your customer is counting on to provide the proper guidance on their pathway to success.