What Makes a Great Consultant?

When I was relatively new to the consulting world, I was unsure what I would be getting myself into when I made the transition from corporate recruiter to consultant. Would I have the skills necessary to solve problems that may arise? Would I be able to articulate my thoughts into clear and concise solutions to those problems?

Would I have the PeopleSoft knowledge the client needed? If not, would I be able to pick it up quickly enough? Maneuvering through the learning processes and gradually understanding what consulting was all about, I tried to piece together what I felt were important attributes of a great consultant. I didn’t want to settle for being just a “good” consultant, helpful to our clients; I wanted to be a great one, offering exceptional service to them. I targeted specific qualities to work on to aid in my growth in my new role. I will outline a few of the basic attributes I believe are necessary to provide clients with creative and effective solutions to promote the successful alignment of business processes and technology.

• Collaboration – Collaboration among the consulting team and with the client is essential to consulting. Working together and taking into account what each person has to offer not only creates a positive work environment, but also is key to building successful relationships. At my company, we have regular scheduled meetings with our clients and with our team to assure we are all on the same page and are meeting requested deadlines.

• Great Listener – Listening skills must be utilized in every aspect of consulting. The more listening occurs, the better, because more information is taken in, and well-thought-out solutions can be crafted. The consultant can truly grasp what is being requested.

• Being Professional – Finding a delicate balance between professionalism and still having a personal touch can be tricky. The client should have every bit of faith and trust in your knowledge and provided solutions (professional) and feel like you truly have their best interest at heart (personal).

• Passionate – Having a passion for problem solving while still keeping an eye on the future is a necessary attribute for a great consultant. Many times, projects require an immediate solution to a problem. While it is important to work through the pressing issue at hand, we must also keep in mind that our solutions can have future implications on other facets of the client’s business – users in different departments, the system itself, or the company’s business processes.

• Time Management – Time Management skills are much appreciated by the client, especially when it comes to the schedule and budget of a project. A great consultant must be flexible and look for ways to complete the job on time, in scope, and within budget; using technical, business, and leadership skills while keeping the organization and department strategies aligned. This is critical for many of our clients as we assist in running their payroll.

• Communication – Communication skills are utilized daily; clients appreciate clear, succinct and timely communication. Written or verbal, communication is the life line in this business. We do this by communicating:

  • To clients with questions for clarification or with information regarding their requests
  • To team members to leverage experience and advice to provide the best solution or options to the client for review and selection
  • To team members on action plans to achieve requested results
  • To managers about requests from clients or receiving approval for SOWs

- all of which can drastically affect client satisfaction.