So, you want to be a consultant? Here’s how to make a positive impact

Setting yourself up as a consultant is a bold statement.

The word consultant is defined as “a person who provides expert advice professionally”, and by becoming a consultant, you are claiming to be an expert.

As a consultant, you are saying that you have superior skills and experience to anyone employed by your clients, that you have already faced the challenges that they currently face, and that you can help them overcome those challenges.

Placed upon this precipice, consultants are vulnerable, but that vulnerability can be mitigated if consultants employ a range of behaviours that help to set client expectations, and also work hard to meet the major concerns clients have around consultants.

In a piece of recent research carried out by Kenzie Group, clients were asked: “In what way do you feel let down by consultants?”

The top four answers they gave were:

The consultant lacks knowledge and experience

Clients explained that consultants were brought in to enhance the skill base at their company, or to add an extra pair of hands, or because the consultant had a unique skill. Too often, consultants tell clients what they want to hear at the outset, only to fail to deliver on their promises. From the very first meeting, consultants must clearly communicate what they can bring to the table, so that client expectations are realistic and disappointment is avoided.

We don’t feel like we matter to them

When consultants promise something they can’t deliver, they often use avoidance tactics to prevent being ‘found out’. These tactics can include using jargon to baffle the client, who is often too proud to admit to not understanding, or simply not volunteering feedback and leaving the client feeling that they are constantly having to chase for information.

There appears to be little structure to the process

Some clients didn’t think that there could be a structure to their relationship with a consultant. Having worked as a consultant and with a consultancy firm, I absolutely disagree with this. There should always be a process. The outcome may not be known but the consultant should have a very clear idea of where they will start and what milestones they will cover. The client can then foresee areas where issues might arise and be able to offer support and shortcuts to make the process smoother.

We feel like the process is unnecessarily spun out

This links to the previous point and is one of the most damaging pieces of anecdotal information that clients can share with their colleagues. Consultants must engage the client effectively to ensure the process is clear and understood. A failure to do this could lead to some negative reviews reaching potential future clients.

Consultants who work at Kenzie Group benefit from the very best training and they know how to avoid letting clients down. Kenzie team members are selected for their skill, profiled for behaviour, and interviewed for fit.

Penny Whitelock, May 2016

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