Anxiety may be your first reaction to the idea of outsourcing your brainpower. Pondering the skills and qualifications necessary for consulting could certainly leave your mind jammed like a thruway at rush hour. But there’s no need to seek out the nearest exit. Read on and you might decide that consulting is your perfect reinvention route.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a consultant is “one who gives professional advice or services.” Consulting is essentially leasing your knowledge and experience in a particular field to a client who is looking for a fresh set of eyes focused on helping them advance on their business road map.
What are your super powers? What unique insights and problem-solving skills can you offer that the client can’t tap from existing resources? As a consultant, you’re positioning yourself as the expert in your field, with many miles of experience behind you. Be ready to prove this with stories that align with outcomes this client is looking to achieve.
Here are a few more questions to ponder:
- How well-honed are your people skills?
As a consultant, you’ll be required to work within the culture of the organization, often engaging in conversations with multiple stakeholders. Some may have different ideas on goals and objectives for the project. Some might even feel a bit threatened by your presence (“Hey, that’s my job”).
- Are you a good communicator?
You must understand your client’s needs and concerns. Then, articulate your recommendations and thoughts succinctly. Imagine that you’ve just pitched a plan to tackle a challenge your client doesn’t deem worthy of support. Keep in mind, communication is a two-way street and listening is crucial, especially in these instances. Every consultant encounters push back at some point, but it’s the smart ones who probe further to understand the WHY behind the push back, to ultimately land on a plan that’s mutually beneficial.
- How thick-skinned are you?
Advancing on project goals requires not only people skills, but patience. Consultants must be emotionally resilient to withstand criticism and thoughtfully deal with and diffuse the skeptics. Balancing the need to compromise with the confidence of knowing when to stand firm is paramount to being a successful consultant.
Must do’s to keep in mind…
- Be responsive.
Be ready to respond to client questions across multiple forms of communication. Check emails, voice mails and texts regularly and respond within one business day, if not sooner.
- Reassure, but don’t minimize.
A big deal to your client is a big deal period. New concerns raised by clients must be handled carefully, yet efficiently.
- Be flexible.
Your project will likely encounter modifications along the way. Budget cuts and corporate reorganizations are inevitable these days. You must be nimble and adapt to unexpected shifts, yet beware of scope creep. If new developments cause projects to expand beyond what’s reasonable, it’s time to revisit and amend your agreement.
- Never say never.
Successful consultants take on new challenges regularly. This is how you learn and grow your super powers for the next client. With that said, successful consultants also tend to stay in their specialty swim lanes, yet have strong colleagues in neighboring lanes — colleagues they can tap for just-in-time support, as needed.
Now it’s your turn…
What other questions should we be asking to determine if this consulting path is a good fit? What additional attributes are needed to build to a strong and thriving consulting practice?