Individuals and businesses from various industries require consultants to add value and guide them to their goals. The high demand for consultants has also raised the bar of client expectations for professionalism in the field. So if you’re looking to become a consultant or secure high-paying clients, evaluate yourself against this checklist. This article also includes tips on improving different aspects of your consultancy service.
1. Expertise In Communication
The majority of your work as a consultant requires you to communicate with your clients at every point. For you to secure and retain clients, you need to be able to explain how you would add value to their personal or professional lives with targeted strategies. This means you need to have clarity and fluency in the language you’re using as well as a confident manner of getting your message across.
Remember, the client is coming to you because of some problem or confusion. If you sound confused in your speech, they will struggle to feel reassured by you. Use these methods to work on your communication skills:
- Try structuring your ideas and presentations with a top-down approach when you communicate. The key message should come first and hook the listener in, and then you layer it on with the details being the whys and hows.
- Practice talking in front of a mirror, so you can witness your facial expressions and body language in real time. Recording yourself talking is also a great way to pinpoint your weaknesses and build strong communication patterns.
2. Deep Understanding
If your goal is to convince your client that you’re the right choice for them, do it without telling them that. Show them your extensive knowledge of the market, current trends and innovations, and the problem that your client is facing.
An important strategy is to repeat the client’s stated issue or goal and break it down into different chunks to make the objectives appear more realistic while displaying your comprehensive grasp of the situation. You can only do this effectively with strong communication skills and by developing a rich knowledge base.
Read books written by industry experts, listen to podcasts, and watch videos, so you have a good understanding of what has worked and what doesn’t. Case studies and annual research reports can equip you with insightful data and statistics to show a client how likely they are to make progress.
3. Problem-Solving Skills
This is one of the skills that will help you level up from being a great consultant to an excellent one. With extensive knowledge, you need the ability to transform your understanding of the problem and the available resources into a creative solution.
Merely providing a solution isn’t enough nor does it help you stand out in the market. If you are interested in getting paid as a consultant, you need to know that people look for professionals who can offer them specific and out-of-the-box approaches that resolve their particular issues.
In order to evolve your problem-solving skills, you should develop an analytical mindset. Break down a problem into its causes and contributors. Use mind mapping to visualize every aspect of the situation. This will help you look at the bigger picture and figure out unique methods and solutions.
4. Relevant Background
If you have a health problem, would you want to consult a general physician or a health expert who specializes in that area of the body? People seek professionals who understand them because of their relevant background. The common ground makes clients feel more at ease with their choice of consultant. Moreover, you would need to increase your credibility by showing some proof of your experience in the particular field.
At this point, you can display your academic background or prior professional experience (recommendation letters, references). If you don’t have that, consider getting a certification from a reputable school or course provider.
Though the rest of your professional skills will advocate your reliability to prospective clients, you also need to make a continuous effort through your work ethic. This entails valuing your clients’ time by not making them wait for a scheduled meeting. Show them that you are also reliable because of your flexibility and consideration for others.
If your client requires your services but can’t meet you physically, offer alternatives such as a Zoom meeting even if this is not how you normally work. The simplest way to portray your reliability as a consultant is to deliver your promises by actually providing the solutions that you pitched to your clients.
6. Empathetic Listener
By being an empathetic listener, you allow people to feel more relaxed and comfortable sharing their problems with you. This makes your job easier as a consultant since you won’t need to dig deep or try to pull information out of your client.
With empathetic listening, your clients will be more than willing to discuss their situation at great lengths with you. While they’re talking, make sure that your body language communicates that you are attentive and understanding the message.
When you’re actively listening, you can raise crucial points and highlight potential pathways right after your client is done talking.
7. Updated Information
How do you offer relevant solutions to current problems if you’re not well aware of the present market? You don’t. No matter which field or industry you cater to as a consultant, you need to keep yourself updated with new tools, methods, popular professionals or organizations, and more.
With a deeper level of awareness, you will spend less time trying to convince a client that you’re good enough and more time coming up with creative ideas. Staying in the loop about your industry will also help you make progress as a consultant and inspire new ways of thinking about problems.
If you want to be seen as an expert, then become one. Let’s say you’re an academic consultant who wants to attract more students, parents, and educational institutes to hire you. Start by deciding on a niche within the academic field and narrow your target audience further.
For instance, you could offer consultation specifically for high school students. You could narrow this even further based on their educational system, such as private, public, or homeschooling.
Specialized consultants also have professional seniority which helps them secure clients more easily. Not to mention, your work becomes easier since you don’t need to be updated with different subgroups within your industry to provide valuable service. You can just stick to one or two.
Use this as a guide to align your expertise with client expectations and start getting paid as a consultant. After all, the defining aspect of this job is how you cater to your target customers.