Two business workers having a seated conversation

In my role as a consultant in a team of great consultants, I have noticed several characteristics unique to great consultants, which set them at a whole bar above average consultants I have worked with. Despite that some consultants may have exceptional expertise and knowledge in their field, the key to being a great consultant lies in the non-technical side and these factors are what separates them as that speck of gold from the rest of the mud in the pan.
The key differences from my perspective between an average consultant and a great consultant are summarised below.

An average consultant
• Does not realise the importance and differences between pricing models and different commercial arrangements on projects e.g. time and expense, lump sum, mixed model etc.
• Does not always keep track of project budgets well, resulting in budget blowouts and variations along with misaligned expectations with clients
• Is sporadic in communicating with team members and keeping them up to date
• Is focussed on looking good or seeking a client’s approval rather than on achieving the best outcome and delivering outstanding value for the client
• Is in it for the short term outcomes with clients rather than focussing on developing long term relationships, repeat work and referrals
• Seek to sell services rather than educate
• They speak more than they listen
• They do not seek to actively change, grow or improve themselves and ‘fall’ into improvement opportunities
• They do not know how to delegate or let go of work to other members of their teams
• They often overpromise and underdeliver
• They do not plan ahead and as a result become overwhelmed with the number of commitments they agree to – their lack of good regular planning means they fail to prioritise their commitments and let people down in the process

A great consultant
• Keeps constant communication with team members to make sure everyone is aligned
• Is proactive at looking forward into the future and planning as such rather than waiting for things to happen and reacting to it
• Is commercially astute from before the beginning of the project to after the outcome is delivered
• Keeps track of time worked and budgets on projects to ensure commercial success
• Realises the value of establishing sustainable relationships with both clients and team members
• They ensure they always deliver more value to the client than expected
• They seek to educate and not sell
• They listen twice as much as they speak – there’s a saying that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason!
• They seek to add value where they can
• Seek to encourage others to learn, grow and improve and have a genuine interest others’ development
• Are constantly seeking to learn, grow and improve themselves through observing other great consultants and using training, coaching programs, books and audio guides
• Are clear and coherent in their communication both in written and verbal forms
• Are focussed on their area of expertise and industries and market their services as such
• Realise the value in ‘less in more’ and do not overwhelm others with matters or material that do not add extra value
• Ask great questions
• Are constantly seeking new and more effective methods to deliver their services and add more value

These non-technical characteristics are those which are strongly enforced everyday within our team and I hope they are in yours too. I have come to see that these skills are absolutely crucial to success as a consultant and they are the ‘X-factor’ that separates the good from the great.