put them first. The marketplace is saturated, but with
exceptional customer service, consultants will find
success in any field. Here are five steps that will help
ensure you set off on the right path:
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
CEOs and decision makers can quickly tell whether
you know the ins and outs of their unique industries.
Beyond interviewing the company’s employees, extend your research to competitors and the company’s
client base. Determine what differentiates the company from its competition. Is there anything it’s doing
that sets it apart? Anything that should be done differently? You’ll want to present this information and
discuss why you are, or are not, following suit.
Review any existing customer surveys, or reach
out to the business’s customers and clients. Look for
any consistent feedback or concerns to address. If you
come into that first meeting with a thorough understanding of the company’s concerns, your confidence
will more readily shine through. And all of that early
work will prove that you really do mean business.
2. PROVIDE CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS
Businesses bring on consultants to help with their
companies’ highly specific pain points. A generic product or solution isn’t going to cut it. A consultant’s role
is to research the company’s needs, interview top-level
executives, and come up with custom solutions.
Every interaction with the customer should be meaningful. That means digging deeper to uncover any issues
before you’re blindsided in a meeting or an interview.
Determine why the questions and concerns exist and
how a solution is critical to the client’s business model.
You will develop better insight into the company and
be able to customize a solution that promotes the necessary changes within the organization. All that personalized effort won’t go unnoticed by a savvy CEO.
3. UPDATE THE CLIENT CONSISTENTLY
It’s crucial for a consultant to stay on top of client
communication once the project has started. Set a reporting plan, and stick to it. This is even more important if a
timeline slides or something isn’t going as planned. Consistent updates allow you to include specifics on the issues at hand and note what’s being done to resolve them.
Not only that, but if the client notices that you’ve gone
silent, it gets easier to question why you’re being kept
on the payroll. Even an update with no new information is better than no updates at all.
4. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
Consultants are typically hired when the client already
knows there’s an issue. Whether it’s a specific supply chain
issue or a broader strategic concern, the client’s awareness
that something is wrong drives the decision to hire a consultant. Unfortunately, businesses often expect a quick fix.
Sometimes, part of your role is to bring your client’s
thinking back to reality. It’s important for a consultant
to manage expectations and provide an accurate time
frame for resolution—one that includes an initial analysis phase to determine the true scope and cause of the
problem. It’s sometimes different or larger than the client ever imagined, and making that reality understood
is an important early step.
5. BRACE YOURSELF FOR RESISTANCE
Change is hard, and employees from all levels of
the company will inevitably resist it. The Satir Change
Model tells us there are five stages to change: late status
quo, resistance, chaos, integration, and new status quo.
The middle stages are the hardest and most volatile. As a
consultant, you need to navigate this time with patience,
support, and (perhaps most importantly) guidance.
The client will look to you for how to handle these situations, as well as for your assistance in pushing through
times of uncertainty. Your approach will be different for
various employees, depending on how significantly the
change may impact their daily tasks and roles. Put the
client first, and address the needs of all team members.
By remaining consistent and approachable—and by
following through with your initial plan—you set yourself up for success as a consultant. With each project
and referral, your network will grow, and your knowledge and expertise will expand. Consulting is a great
path for those who prefer independence and a chance
to really make a difference. You just need to raise your
head high and take that first step.
Sona Jepsen is the global head of sales enablement at Fidelity
National Information Services (FIS). Her team empowers FIS’
global sales teams with sales content, strategic insights, and
world-class learning and development opportunities.