What does your sign say?

Qualities of An Outstanding Consultant

We all understand that the first and foremost role of any consultant is to improve their client’s current and long term condition. The difference between a good consultant and an outstanding consultant lies in their ability to continuously improve and develop those qualities that separate them from the pack and help them provide the highest value to their clients. There has been much research undertaken, and many articles written, on what makes for an outstanding consultant.

In researching this topic, I have found that there are unmistakably key qualities that define an outstanding consultant. This made me reflect on my first exposure into the world of consulting as an internal franchisee business consultant for a leading corporation in the foodservice industry. I learned very quickly that franchisees would ask for the most “meaningless” things to test your professionalism and dependability. The most valuable lesson I learned about consulting came on one innocent day. As I was discussing expectations and my commitment to the franchisee’s success, I referred to a recent article I had just read. My sharing of the article was simply a means to create simple conversation that I hoped would be the first step in making the franchisee comfortable with accepting me as their franchisee business consultant. As we continued to speak about important goals such as improving his restaurant’s sales, operations and profits, he casually referred back to the article and asked if I could send it to him.

Being young and somewhat naïve at the time, I did not realize that this was a test and would determine the level of our relationship going forward. Unfortunately, I did not understand “the game” and forgot about sending him the article. Going forward, he became the most difficult franchisee I had to work with and I was never able to gain his confidence. The damage had been done and the time needed to repair my reputation with him never materialized.

Do not make the same mistake I made. Here are six qualities that every consultant must consistently work on if they expect to develop the trust and confidence needed from their clients to become an outstanding consultant:

1. Professionalism: Your attitude and behavior will make all the difference. To be called a “Professional” is not a title you bestow on yourself; rather, it is one that you will earn from current and previous clients, as well as your peers. Beware to all new consultants, do not fall into the trap of developing an “employee attitude”. This always backfires and can lead to you becoming ineffective and adversely affecting your client’s project.
2. Judgment: Consultants must take the time to reflect on the facts and acquire feedback from peers, executives and stakeholders before jumping to a decision. Consultants should not only focus on the tasks at hand, but also to think critically think about the impact to the entire operation of the client’s company.
3. Good Communication Skills: Ideas and opinions must be able to be communicated effectively in order to add value to your client. It is imperative that consultants have exceptional oral and written communication skills.
4. Expert Knowledge: Consultants must be proficient at utilizing the appropriate tools to analyze a company’s performance; thereby, being able to efficiently help their clients. Consultants should be adept at applying theory into practice.
5. Good Listening Skills: Consultants must develop excellent listening skills. This will encourage clients to talk freely and lead to increased and better information sharing which, in the end, will make the consulting process more efficient.
6. Reputation: Consultants must safeguard their public reputations above and beyond all else. When in doubt, walk away, and in certain cases RUN away, from circumstances or contracts that could possibly harm your reputation.

Remember, outstanding consultants create tremendous value for their clients. The consulting industry is one of survival of the fittest, those consultants that work and develop these qualities will thrive and prosper. Those that fail to recognize and continuously develop these qualities will realize fewer and fewer client engagements over time and eventually have move onto to other careers.

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