How to be a successful consultant
It’s all about the client
The first thing you need to recognize as a consultant, is that it is a results oriented business. For your client, It’s not about how much effort you put in, or how many hours you work – it is all about the results you produce. As long as your client feels you have provided them with VALUE, then you’ve knocked it out of the park. The more value they feel you provide, the more money you are effectively worth to them. For example, if you provide a service to your client that makes them $100,000 and costs them $40,000, then it is a win for them as much as it is for you.
So let’s take a look at 5 ways that YOU can increase the perceived value for your clients.
1. Identify your clients pain points.
The first thing you should be doing as a consultant is identifying the main pain points that your client has. You will of course want to focus on pain points that revolve around your area of expertise. For me, I focus on helping my clients with their use of technology – a list of one of my clients pain points might look something like this:
- Too much time spent on manually entering data from business cards into their CRM after conferences/events
- Contact lists are inconsistent between their CRM, Google Contacts and Xero accounts
- They are lacking clear reporting in their CRM system, and have to do manual work to get monthly sales summaries for each salesperson
You’ll notice that these are very specific pain points, rather than being general statements. They outline real issues, that can be solved with real solutions. Just looking at that sample list I already know exactly what steps I would take to help make their lives significantly easier. To create this kind of list with your own clients, you want to take some time and prepare some qualifying questions you always ask your clients. At the end of the day, this step is all about asking the right question – it is rare that your client will come to you and just give you an organized list of their problems. YOU need to push them in the right direction, using the right questions to get the information you need to help your clients move forward and grow their business.
2. Implement the solutions
Once you have helped clients identify their problems, many consultants will stop there. Don’t be that consultant. Rather than just recommending changes that should be made, take the extra step and help with the implementation of the solutions. Even if the solution is outside of your particular skill set, it is always an option to hire out the task for a lower price than you are being paid to complete it.
There are many benefits to implementing the solution yourself, the first being that it makes you the sole provider of value for the client. You did the work to identify the pain point, and the solution, so it makes little sense to hand it off to another party and let them take the credit. This will make you more money on the project, and more importantly, it will establish you as a “problem solver”. The client will love how well you’ve taken care of them, and most of the time will want to use your services again.
3. Set clear deliverables
Consulting work can be very wishy washy. What I mean by that, is that it is easy to take your sweet time “researching” and “investigating” solutions. This can leave a client very antsy, and they will begin to wonder “when will they be delivering some real results”. You want to avoid this at all costs. One of the best ways to avoid it is to take the time near the beginning to set out some clearly defined deliverables, and set out an approximated schedule for delivery. You can make it known that this is a loose timeline, as long as you have given them something to work off of.
The one pitfall of this is to make sure you do not over-commit. If you say you will have something done in one week, and it ends up taking three, you’ll find yourself in hot water. Even if there was good reason, and you delivered an incredible result, your client will likely still have a sour taste in their mouth. For this reason, I recommend taking the time you THINK it will take, and then double it. If it is something you have done many times in the past, and know exactly how long it should take, still add on a good 30-40% extra time to allow for any unforeseen issues.
Nobody will be upset if you deliver ahead of schedule, but you can be sure that they will be if you deliver late.
4. Offer training
5. Keep your client in the loop