As a consultant, you have the opportunity to create an experience with a client. If you hit the mark, it will be an experience that the client will remember, they will refer you to others and continue to utilise your services in the future. Having advocates for your businesses who are also your clients is the best form of marketing and business development a consultant can wish for!
As both a consultant and someone who loves outsourcing, I believe there are five key areas that need to be addressed by a consultant if the relationship is going to work for both parties, achieve the desired outcomes and hit the mark……
1. Be clear on expectations. Right from the outset of the project you need to make sure both parties are crystal clear with regards to expectations. This includes;
- Budgets – specify what is incorporated within the budget and what is not and make sure you incorporate all your qualifiers and assumptions within your proposal. Ensure you discuss any variations or changes in scope as they arise with your client
- Outcomes and/or deliverables – provide details around the key milestones and deliverables
- Timelines – ensure you put a plan in place so that both parties know what is required by when to ensure the project continues remains on track to achieve the key milestones.
2. Role clarity. As a consultant you must ensure everyone involved within the project knows and understands what their role is, what they will be responsible for and by when and who will be held accountable.
3. Know your industries. Studies have shown that over 45% of organisations say their number one criteria when choosing service providers is because of their in depth understanding of their industry (2008 Broderick & Company study of buyers of consulting services). Great consultants also need to ensure they are constantly learning and developing their own skills and expertise to ensure they are up to speed with the latest technology, software, regulations etc, that are relevant to their industries and expertise.
4. Manage the project. Consultants must ask the right questions, follow up on deliverables and proactively drive the project to ensure the expectations are met and the agreed outcome and results are achieved.
5. Communicate. You need to communicate and engage with your client. Be honest with them. There are going to be times when things don’t quite go as planned, but if you are open with your client, explain what the problem is and how and when you will find a solution, the client will understand and appreciate the honesty. Don’t hide and make excuses, or try and turn the blame on the client. Take the time to get to know your client, build a relationship and find out the best way to communicate with them. Get on the front foot, call them, send that follow up email, ask them for the information you need to keep the project on track.
At the end of the day your client has engaged you to achieve a desired outcome. They have hired you for your knowledge, expertise and experience to get the job done. Make sure you step up, take charge and drive the project. I’m not saying you have to over deliver, but if you can nail these five areas, your client will keep coming back and will refer others to you.
Make sure you give yourself every opportunity to create an experience your client will remember and ‘hit the mark’ as a consultant!