The consulting field is as interesting as it is diverse. It’s an industry in which top performers tend to be the ones with the most experience, connections, and charisma. In fact, it’s almost impossible to be a successful consultant without these three things. However, building a thriving consulting business cuts much deeper. It requires a systematic approach and careful attention to detail.
4 Tips For Consulting Success
The biggest problem in the consulting industry is that most people don’t know what they’re signing up for. They say they want to build a consulting firm, but they really don’t have any idea what that means. “Consulting” has become an increasingly broad term and the advice on how to succeed varies from source to source.
In a nutshell, a consultant is basically someone who offers third-party, independent advice for organizations and groups that require specialized expertise in a particular area of need. As you build your consulting firm, you should always keep this definition in mind. You’ll also want to heed the following pointers:
1. Conduct A SWOT Analysis
As almost any entrepreneur or business owner knows, a SWOT analysis is an important aspect of building a new business and coming to terms with the lay of the land. As you build your firm, you should conduct your own analysis:
- What are your personal and professional strengths? In other words, identify the three to five things you do/know that will help your clients the most.
- Which areas are your weak points? These are the issues that you’ll end up passing off to someone else (or avoiding altogether).
- What sort of opportunities exist for your consultancy in your niche or industry? You may find there’s ample room for you to move in and grab clients because of some different factors in the marketplace.
- Finally, you need to understand what – if any – threats you face. This could include competition, evolving technology, or even a lack of demand.
Take your time developing this SWOT analysis and don’t be afraid to ask for input in order to gain some clarity on the situation.
2. Focus On Building Trust
It could be argued that there’s no element more important to developing a consulting firm than establishing trust with clients. Consulting requires you to have difficult discussions with clients; you’ll come up short in these interactions if there isn’t an open and honest foundation upon which to build.
“You cannot have that type of conversation and honest dialogue until both parties trust each other,” says Michael Johnson of Bridgepoint Consulting. “Mutual trust allows both parties to bring their most effective selves in a range of situations—good or bad. Trust also helps you to navigate through any clashes in approach or philosophy, to ensure continued success.”
3. Learn To Delegate
No matter how much experience you have, or how hard you try, you can’t run a consulting business on your own. You can do most of the work if you want to be super hands-on, but there’s a time and place for delegating.
The best approach is to study your SWOT analysis and delegate as many of your weaknesses as possible. In doing so, you’ll save time and offer better services to your clients.
4. Always Be Closing
Consulting is all about establishing relationships and growing your client base. If you’re going to do this successfully, you have to always be closing.
“Experts have found that the average time from initial contact to engagement can sit between six to 36 weeks, and close rates hover between 10 percent and 20 percent,” consultant Ozioma Ubabukoh explains. “Any downtime should be reinvested into business development.”
Keep Pushing Forward
For many consultants – particularly those who have retired from a particular field and now spend time helping clients in that same field – there’s a tendency to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. While you have valuable experiences that are worth reflecting on, don’t get so caught up in the past that you forget to focus on the present and future.
Building a successful consulting firm requires you to balance the past, present, and future. Keeping pushing forward and never stop learning.
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