What Makes a Good Consultant? Top Qualities of a Successful Consultant

Feb 24, 2019 · 8 minutes to read

Apart from the degree and skills, good consultants also have certain characteristics that help them be great at what they do. Some of these characteristics are innate, while others can be developed with experience and over time. Consultants have to fill in various roles through a normal working day. From client pitches to networking, client problem-analysis, and execution of the created plan, each of these situations requires a different set of characteristics. Further, consultants have to manage various aspects of the business, from generating business to handling clients, purchasing consultant liability insurance and managing end-to-end operations. This post illustrates five top characteristics that define good consultants.

What is consulting?

With a wide variety of roles such as management consulting, financial advisory consulting, and recruitment consulting, ‘consultancy’ has become a massive industry. As a field, consultancy is subject to changes, shape-shifting to fit the nature of a project.

So, what exactly is consultancy? If you’re looking for a definition, consultancy is the provision of advice to a company related to its structure, organization, operations, finance, accounts, and management. Organizations are complex structures, and sometimes, an outside and specialized eye may provide better insights than someone working within the company. That’s where consultants come in. Consultants could work in any area pertaining to a business. Besides areas related to the core functioning of a business, there are those such as law and IT infrastructure management in which one can provide consultancy services.

What is the objective of a consultant? Well, a consultant provides specialized expertise in an area of concern to businesses with the objective of uncovering actionable insights. The success of a consultant can be measured by how effective their advice is in terms of how much revenue, saved money, increased leads or whatever outcome becomes a result of their involvement.

Types of consultancy jobs

As previously discussed, consultants can provide a wide variety of services, each fitting a certain specialized area pertaining to the functioning of a business. So, what are the most popular types of consultants? What do their jobs entail? Here’s a short note about the various types of consultants and what they do to help a business:

  • Strategy consultants – Strategy consultants help their clients with a strategy on the highest level. They work with CEOs, CMOs, CTOs, and other executive directors to help resolve major issues with a business.
  • Management consultants – Consultants who focus on organizational issues and find resolutions are management consultants. This type of consultant focuses on issues about everything from management of operations to HR.
  • Financial advisory consultants – Apart from analyzing financial capabilities and analytical capabilities, financial advisory consultants also delve into details about tax, risk management, and restructuring.
  • Human resource consultants – If there are critical decisions to be made about human resource management – incentives, activities, formalities, and benefits, all of it is handled by human resource consultants.
  • IT consultants – Information Technology is an important part of any industry and business. IT consultants are responsible for auditing a company’s IT infrastructure and making recommendations to cut costs and improve productivity.

What is the right one for you?

Each consultancy role has its own set of required skill sets. For instance, IT consultants should ideally also be experts in installation and utility of servers, security software and hardware, cloud solutions, and data analytics. When choosing a type of consultancy to specialize in, ask yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. Map them to the skills required for each type of consultancy, and then choose the one that fits best.

How to be a great consultant?

There are several clearcut ways in which you can prove to be a great consultant. For one, make sure you listen to clients, carefully. The more details you have about their business and problems, the more effectively you will be able to design solutions for them. Great consultants have a degree in their field of specialization, along with experience working on projects and achieving results in the same areas. Great consultants also work in a goal-focused manner, ensuring that their clients get to experience the results that they deserve.

If there’s one piece of advice that every consultant should abide by, it’s to make an impression during the initial set of projects that you handle. Figure out how you want to be known as a consultant. Create a mental impression of the characteristics that you want to shine through and consciously inculcate them in your behavior. Apart from the mental visualizations, there are several practical tips as well that you can apply to achieve success in your consultancy career. Here are ten practical tips or advice for success in consultancy.

1. Leverage Google Alerts for market research

Create Google Alerts for your competitors, industry, and important keywords. This can give you insights into what’s happening in your industry and how you can keep up.

2. Understand your client’s business well

Get all the details about your client’s business. The better you know your client, the easier you will find it to create a custom solution for him or her.

3. Get introduced to senior management

Ensure that you get introduced to C-suite executives and senior management when working with clients. Many times, your success as a consultant depends on these introductions.

4. Study your competition thoroughly

Make sure that you know your immediate competition. If you’re not sure what’s being offered and at what price, you won’t be able to grab enough market share.

5. Understand your client’s expectations

Review any previous work that a client has had done from a consultant. It’s important to understand a client’s past experiences and expectations before working on any new projects.

6. Establish an effective in-house communication channel

Use an effective communication tool to stay in touch with all members of your team. Team collaboration is key in consultancy. You could use chat apps or software such as Slack.

7. Provide partners and teammates access to resources

Make client-related documents and resources accessible. Store them in an organized manner in folders and provide access to all relevant people.

8. Streamline communication with your clients

Streamline client communication. It’s very important for your client to know that they’re being heard and acknowledged. Create an open channel of communication with clients.

9. Build reliable relationships with the assistants

Build cordial working relationships with your team assistant and the client’s team. This is critical in ensuring a smooth and successful working relationship.

10. Work on keeping clients engaged

Be well-versed with meeting spots and restaurants in your city where you can take clients and treat them to lunches and dinners.

New consultant training

When working with a new consultant, what should you include in their onboarding process? Well, there are many important lessons that new consultants should be taught without fail. Here are five such lessons:

  • Don’t take the client’s words at face value. What the client claims in the problem need not really be the problem.
  • Clients sometimes say things that they don’t mean. Before signing off on any major change, it’s best to show clients a dummy version of how it may appear/affect their business.
  • When a client resists something, it’s usually because of some emotion that they’re feeling deeply.
  • Networking is easily the most important habit of great consultants.
  • It’s never a good idea to blindly say yes to a client request. Save promises for after you analyze their problems and assess what’s truly possible.

Qualities of a good consultant

You can achieve success as a consultant by developing certain characteristics. Here’s a list of characteristics that most good consultants have, and how you can inculcate them.

  • Reliability and trustworthiness: If you had to choose one characteristic to focus on developing as a consultant, make it reliability and trustworthiness. Businesses have to share their confidential information with consultants, along with other key aspects of how their organizations run. Unless you establish trust with your clients, they’re not likely to be fully upfront with you about important details, which, in turn, can hamper your performance as a consultant.
  • Expertise and knowledge of the subject matter: When working as a consultant with a company, you have to focus on giving your clients tangible results. If you are to do that, you have to have an expertise and in-depth knowledge about those subjects. Ideally, you should have a Bachelor’s or certification in certain areas such as Business Analytics, Business Management, Finance or Marketing.
  • Attention to detail: Consultants have to work with a lot of numbers, and the success of that analysis depends on the accuracy of those numbers. That’s why consultants have to be able to pay attention to details. For instance, when financial advisory consultants take a look at expenditure and revenue sheets, they should be able to catch anomalies and figure out places where the business can cut costs.
  • Predicting problems and solutions: A consultant’s job is to provide a third-person’s perspective into problems faced by a business. That’s why consultants should have the ability to predict problems and offer solutions to management. Businesses can benefit most from spotting problems ahead of their appearance. If you are good at analyzing problems and using business analytics to spot them, you could become a great consultant.

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