Consulting with clients to improve business outcomes or solve technical problems can be very rewarding work. There are several traits required for a consultant to be successful when engaging with clients, here are the aspects that I tend to notice.
- Adapt to change – consulting is not pre-programmed, and change will happen during your project.
- Written and Verbal Communication – consultants must be able to articulate technical information to all levels of an audience, from another technical expert, to the executive who wants to understand the business value. This is a special skill.
- Planning – each and every project is different, and we must be able to create our own plans for success. Working with the project manager to plan the tasks forward, and then also breaking those tasks out to subtasks and individual deliverables.
- Critical Thinking – we must be able to solve problems by taking a holistic view of the situation, account for historical issues, future design challenges, and also business need. This is a special skill.
- Empathy – your ability to sense a client’s emotional state will help to guide you through the project. If your client is frustrated, it is imperative to know why and to be able to adjust forward.
Change, Communication, Planning, Critical Thinking and Empathy skills make a solid consultant.
A tip to help improve your consulting / client relationships would be to ask for feedback after the first couple critical project meetings. Ask “How can we make this project better? What can we do to stop, start, or change?” The simple affect of asking for feedback, will help to reduce frustration by giving the team a way to openly talk about performance. It will also help to build trust and strengthen the relationship.