4 Traits Our Successful Consultants Possess
Whether you are just launching yourself into the field of consulting or looking to shift your company structure to employ more consultants; you may be wondering what skills and experience make a successful consultant. Check in with these four essential traits to get you started.
As a consultant, the ability to self-manage, prioritize and delegate your time efficiently is critical. Consulting is not like a typical job, where you are told where to go and when to go there. Rather, you are responsible for taking on this aspect of your business and treating it with the same degree of importance as you would if you were an employee. This degree of time management skills, as well as your level of professionalism you exert in all areas of your work, will reflect back on you – and you have no room to build up a negative impression or an onslaught of poor testimonials.
There is no question that the ability to be a successful consultant first comes from being integrally knowledgeable about the field in which you are consulting. In many cases, this success comes from experience, and consultants are often individuals who have been in the industry for some time and branch off into consulting after years of working in a more corporate capacity. As a consultant, it is also your responsibility to continue to develop that expertise and authority, attending courses, going to conferences and taking on continuing education. As you become more knowledgeable and authoritative in your field, show this to potential clients: begin writing and contributing to publications in your field, give presentations or talks that are relative to your industry, and become someone who is known in the field that people want to turn to for your expertise and experience.
A client and consultant interaction is unique and not like other typical business and customer connections. When you are working in a consultant capacity, you are working in a more intimate relationship with your client. You have likely sought out each other and gone through a series of checkpoints to determine if you are the right fit for each other. Part of this is the ability to foster relationships – both in gaining the client, as well as holding on to the client and working together for the long term. Successful consultants have the ability to speak to clients and work with them on a level that supports a relationship that is valuable to both parties and has a high level of trust and loyalty.
At the root of being able to maintain and exude professionalism, share your knowledge, and foster relationships are strong skills in communication. This applies to both written and oral communication skills and extends beyond just the need to be able to sit down and talk to your clients. You need to own the communication in your client and consultation relationship. Take initiative to reach out to your client when you haven’t heard from them on a particular point or have not received feedback from your latest interaction. Be clear and concise in your documented communication, such as email newsletters, policies, business philosophies, and the other groundwork of your practice. Become confident in speaking publicly to a large group, on the spot, and of course about the topics that are relative to your field. In the end, poor communication can be the number one deal breaker when it comes to your success as a consultant.