How To Become A Consultant – Expert Advice Towards Maximizing Your Potential
How to become a consultant? Well, people aspire to become consultants for several reasons which include adaptability, networking, and the thrill of always doing something different among others.
However, with these advantages comes the risk of not having to work for long periods of time. Therefore, to mitigate this danger, it is essential that you are doing all it takes to be a preferred consultant for clients.
So, how to become a consultant that clients look forward to work with? Before we get there, let’s first look at the definition of a consultant. After that, we will look at how to maximize your potential in order to become a clients’ favorite consultant.
What Is a Consultant?
The word consultant is derived from the Latin word “consultare” which literally translates to “consult or to advise”. Since the establishment of institutionalized economic activity and society structures, people have been searching for ways to manage their commercial affairs and make decisions more effectively.
Thus, the term consultant means to provide professional and expert advice to another person or an entity as well as receive compensation for the service he or she provided.
How to Become a Consultant (A Preferred One)?
Like you read earlier, there are several reasons why people would want to become a consultant. But to become a preferred consultant for clients is a different ball game altogether. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at a few essential points that you need to do in order to maximize your true potential and become a preferred consultant. Hence, read the following 12 points on how to become a consultant (a preferred one) to maximize your true potential.
#1. Be Flexible
Flexibility extends beyond your day-to-day schedule. In order to be a great consultant who has got a steady stream of work, you need to be willing to adapt to new projects, cultures, and work constraints. The same thing that worked for one job may not necessarily work for all jobs.
It’s crucial for a great consultant to be flexible by listening to its customer, thinking outside the box, and developing new solutions to problems. Likewise, your schedule should be flexible enough to allow for working odd hours, and meeting your clients out of working hours such as nights and weekends at times.
Ultimately, isn’t this flexibility and control over your agenda that makes being a consultant so appealing?
#2. Be Adaptable
It’s important to be able to work with many different types of personalities if you want to succeed as a consultant. While one of the benefits of consulting is the excitement of working in new environments, it can also be one of the greatest challenges, since every new environment comes with a new group of colleagues.
You will meet people who are combative, passive, easy-going, and everything in between. You will even have to forge good working relationships with people who are not colleagues, but who have in-between positions, and you must be able to work with them efficiently.
You have the ear of the boss, but you have to be able to work well on the ground, too. Being able to successfully navigate different personalities will enhance your abilities as a consultant.
#3. Be Disciplined
Working out a flexible schedule can be great, but it can also pose the very real challenge of discipline. In order to be an effective consultant, you must be able to work diligently on projects by creating a schedule that will allow you the time and resources that you need to complete a project on time.
Your main task as a consultant is to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Knowing how to get in, lend your expertise and advice on a project, and get out quickly is crucial to your success.
#4. Be Collaborative
You need to be collaborative as a consultant, even if you prefer to work mainly on your own or as a leader. Listening to problems and working to develop a solution that will solve those problems means you need to collaborate. Great consultants are team players. So don’t hesitate to share your knowledge.
Part of good collaboration is speaking up, as well as listening. It can only have a positive impact on your work and your reputation. Companies will return again and again to consultants who took the time to listen to the company’s problems, who showed initiative, and who worked with key company players to develop a solution.
#5. Be Confident
Companies generally turn to consultants when they’re faced with a challenge that they just can’t overcome. They’ll feel encouraged when a consultant enters and expresses confidence that he or she can fix the problem.
Do not hesitate to ask questions to get to the bottom of the problem but rely on your experience and knowledge to get through a new challenge, and remind yourself that you’re qualified for the task at hand.
#6. Be Proactive
As a consultant, the key is to be proactive at all times. Whether you’re keeping tabs on industry news or offering up new ideas to your clients, make sure that you’re always bringing something new to the table.
Showing that you’re invested in your client’s success will go a long way toward making them want to work with you again in the future. In addition, it helps you build strong relationships with your clients and perhaps through word of mouth, you’re a hit among other potential clients.
#7. Know your Limitations
As a consultant, it can seem contradictory to fall short on knowing everything related to your projects. However, skirting around a decision because of your lack of knowledge can backfire big time for you and for your client.
Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something, but be sure to follow up with someone who does. As a consultant, you have a different network and are more likely to find a reliable source who does know the answer to the problem. What matters is to solve your client’s problem not to be the one solving it.
#8. Open to Always Learn
Your work as a consultant doesn’t end when a project is finished. Great consultants are experts in their fields, which means they are always on top of the latest research and studies.
Subscribe to journals, attend conferences, and find other ways to stay up to date within your chosen field. Remember, you are filling in the gaps for companies, and that includes a detailed knowledge of recent developments in your discipline.
#9. Listen First and Speak Second
Great consultants understand that their main job is to solve a problem for a company, but the only way to really understand the problem is to listen. Take the time to listen during meetings, and ask questions to ensure that you truly understand what the company wants from you.
By listening and being observant, you will better understand the balance of powers, and you can identify allies. In the end, companies trust consultants who spend a little extra time getting to know the company and the specific issue before diving in with a solution.
#10. Clarify Expectations
Every company has a different relationship with consultants. Some companies expect a consultant to jump in and take over, while others micromanage.
Be upfront with the company about expectations, and be honest about what you can deliver before starting a job. This will save many headaches for you and the company, and will ensure that you can be as effective as possible during the project.
#11. Help Even After Project Completion
As a consultant, it is essential to build rapport with your clients. Your clients need to trust that you have their best interests at heart. Even after the project is complete, continue to stay in touch and offer help when needed. This will make you their go-to person when they need someone with your expertise.
Besides, you need to always be professional. This means being punctual, keeping appointments, and dressing appropriately. Remember, you’re not just selling your skills; you’re selling yourself as a reliable and trustworthy person as well.
#12. Know When to Walk Away
When a client decides to ignore all of your advice and ends up not implementing anything you have suggested, then it’s time to walk away. Understand that you are a consultant and not a member of the company and that your advice and suggestions are merely that.
The company is under no obligation to actually implement your ideas. Also, if you think that your experience simply cannot bring the company more value, it’s best to prepare for the transition and just go. Sometimes, the right move is to walk away from a project and look ahead to a new one.
Each client for whom you work is a new opportunity to network, better your communication methods, learn new skills, and hone older ones. At the end of the day, what really matters is the value that you bring to your clients’ table and the strength of the relationship you will build with them.
Thus, by following the expert advice in this post (on how to become a consultant), you can maximize your true potential and become a preferred consultant. So, are you ready to take your career to the next level?
Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform and author of “Smart Consulting Sourcing”, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your consulting. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting.