What does it take to be a great consultant?

I am often asked about how I got into the consulting business, and what steps someone should take if they want to become a consultant.

A great consultant is more than just a professional person with the technical skills required to solve a particular problem. More than just a rainmaker, problem solver or networker.

So what does it take to make a great consultant? While not comprehensive, the following list is a good starting point:

  • Shared values: Common value framework between yourself, your client and your associates (and supported by your partner, family and personal community)
  • Integrity: Managing your business and personal affairs with impeccable integrity ensuring trust and genuine rapport
  • Natural inquisitiveness: Innate desire to understand issues, motivations, obstacles etc.
  • Needs analysis: The ability to ask good quality questions and the ability to prioritise the issues in order of importance, cost/impact, capacity to achieve etc.
  • Love of solving puzzles: In addition to the desire to understand issues, a deep-seated desire to dive into challenging situations, deal with uncertainty, fix and improve things
  • Estimating: The ability to properly scope the size of a problem and the scale of effort required to solve the problem
  • Negotiation and self-belief: I placed these two together as you need to be able to negotiate the appropriate payment for your efforts based on the value you bring, not how much budget the client has or how quickly they want it done
  • Time and project management skills: The ability to make sure things get done on time, on budget and above standard
  • Networking and business building: properly leveraging your network (including online and professional networks such as LinkedIn) to maximise business opportunities

Let me know what you would add to the list.

Contributor:

Michael Field, Managing Director for Michael Field Pty Ltd.

Secrets of Successful Networking

Networking can be a dirty word. It can conjure up pictures of nightmare scenarios:

  • Lots of people standing in a room and nobody knows each other. Awkward!

… or

  • A room full of squawking self-promoters frisbee-ing out their business cards like samurai stars.

Of course it isn’t always that bad, and many of us have had very positive networking experiences, but in reality, most people find networking challenging – yet they love meeting *interesting people!

* Definition of an interesting person: they do something you find personally interesting or you believe they can provide value for you, your business, family, friends etc.

So let’s firstly examine why people don’t network. In truth, most people don’t want bigger networks. What they do want however is more meaningful relationships that can improve their lives – personal, professional, financial, social etc.

Most professionals already have established friendship groups and professional associates. Depending on their career and life stage, they may not be recruiting new people. Many (including myself) already have enough trouble maintaining their existing friendships – even professionally!

So, to break through, you need to differentiate yourself by demonstrating how you can add value to another person’s life – either personally or professionally.

At this stage, it is worth mentioning that you simply can’t afford the luxury of feeling self-conscious if you want to be a successful networker. Assume that nearly everyone else feels self-conscious – and thinks they are the only one who feels that way.

The best way to be a gun networker is simply by showing interest in other people first, and resisting the need to talk about yourself – unless you are asked, or you have determined it is appropriate.

Your ‘elevator pitch’ is an ‘acid test’ to see if there is mutual potential in furthering the discussion. It should be designed to encourage the listener to respond with a relevant ‘matching’ elevator pitch, for example:

‘My name is Michael Field, I run a strategic marketing consultancy. We work with medium sized business-to-business, not-for-profit and member services organisations to help them grow their business. What do you do?

You may also want to resist the urge to whip out your card too soon. It can be better (and more polite perhaps) to ask for their card. Good manners suggest they will ask for yours in return.

Some people struggle to end a conversation at networking functions. But if you want to get the most out of the opportunity, sometimes you just have to move on. It doesnlt need to be awkward. You can just say, “It has been lovely meeting you. I need to catch up with Mary now and hopefully we will see you soon. It has been a pleasure meeting you. Have a great night.

Above all, follow up! Many networking efforts are wasted through failure to follow-up. It does not have to be a chore.

For the best results:

- Connect on LinkedIn

- Add them to your CRM

- Email a short thank you note acknowledging your meeting

- Send a relevant news article or link

Try this out at your next networking event and let me know how you go.

Contributor:

Michael Field, Director at Michael Field Pty Ltd.