Consultancy Skills Toolkit

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On the practice of consulting

These are simply seven key points on the practice of consulting - tips and guidelines.

1. The "Golden Rule" - always start with an initial survey

The initial meeting between client and consultant is crucial. If the client is in a rush or under pressure, there is a danger that you might be agreeing to a brief, resources and timescales without knowing very much at all about the issues and difficulties. Always aim to leave that initial meeting with an agreement to you carrying out an initial survey so that you can assess the task, issues and difficulties. This together with a short proposal and a further meeting, gives both you and the client a much better basis for moving forward.  
 

2. If you are unsure or wish to change the brief - go back to the client

During the assignment things change. If you become at all unsure about the brief or feel that it needs to be changed, go back to the client and discuss it. If you feel that way then the likelihood is that the client feels the same. If things are deviating from what the client expects - tell them. What they want most of all is no unexpected surprises.  
 

3. Be organised If you are acting as a consultant, the client expects that you will be professional.

To maintain that image, you do need to be well organised. If you start to make errors or miss meetings, then that image will be eroded. Plan and project manage your assignment well. 
 

4. Managing expectations is key

When assignments do start to flounder, in most cases it is because a mis-match develops between the clients expectations and what the consultant is doing. This is why in many assignments, regular stock-takes, perhaps by note or phone, are needed.  
 

5. Get connected to their World

If you want to get and retain the client's confidence and respect, you need to convince them that you are connected - that you understand their world. Some key pointers are:

6. Consciously build your own reputation with the client

The more respect that the client has for you and your work, the more impact you will have and the more they will ask you to input. It also means that at the end you can  withdraw to return.  
 

7. Learn to Read Situations

If managing relationships is the key to success in consulting, then it is the behaviour and interpersonal skills of the consultant that make that happen. All really skilled consultants have excellent interpersonal skills. They need them in order to read situations, build empathy with clients, and gain the trust and respect of those they are working with. The skills of listening, observing, questioning, challenging, influencing, negotiating - are fundamental to good consulting.