What Do Clients Want in a Consultant?

16th Mar 2017

Everybody and their mother thinks they can be a consultant. It’s a hypercompetitive industry filled with people of all experiences, backgrounds, and skillsets. Some know what they’re doing and others are totally out of their league. But how can you set yourself apart and be successful?

Here’s What Clients Want

When a client reaches out to a consultant, they’re looking for help. There’s usually a very specific need. Some need help crunching the numbers or tweaking a product, while others require assistance in terms of managing people or building a brand.

Regardless of what they need, clients are looking for the following characteristics in the consultants they work with:

1. A Differentiating Factor

Whether you’re a management consultant, sales consultant, IT Consultant, or anything in between, you’re always going to face stiff competition. Consulting is one of the most competitive industries around and clients are going to be looking for what sets you apart.

Experience is one of the top things you can offer. This is something RPI Consultants, an ImageNow software consultant, really pushes to its clients. They’ve consulted companies on how to use ImageNow software for more than 16 years, which makes them the most experienced in the industry (outside of the software provider themselves). That’s a huge selling point. What’s yours?

2. Attention to Detail

It pays to have a big picture mentality, but clients are looking for more than a generalist in their consultant. They want someone who can roll up their sleeves, dig in, and deal with the meticulous details of a specific problem. That’s where they need help.

“This is such a crucial skill in consulting because one of the ways we build trust with clients is by producing error-free deliverables, which shows that we’re thorough and our recommendations are solid,” one consultant explains. “Ensuring there are no grammar, spelling, or calculation-related mistakes are in your work is essential and ultimately reflects on your entire team.”

3. A Deep Network of People

A consultant rarely thrives as a one-man team. Sure, you may be a sole proprietor in the sense that you don’t have anyone on your payroll, but you can’t serve your clients very well if you’re acting alone.

Businesses want to work with consultants who have connections. They’re looking at you as the gatekeeper. How much value can you provide in terms of connecting them with people and groups who will help them grow? If you don’t have a deep network, you’re going to struggle to build a good consulting business.

4. A Fatherly Demeanor

While they probably won’t verbalize it with this exact terminology, clients are looking for a fatherly demeanor in their consultant. This means they want someone who is strict, yet compassionate.

They need you to be strict in the sense that you’ll tell them like it is and light a fire under their rear when they’re doing something incorrectly. But they want you to be compassionate in the sense that you care for them and provide encouragement when times get tough. Do both of these things and you’ll be attractive to clients.

Understand What You Bring to the Table

There’s a lot that goes into being a consultant. And while everyone takes a unique path, there’s one prerequisite that stands in the way of becoming successful: You have to possess a profound understanding of who you are and what you bring to the table.

In order to help others, you need to be acutely aware of your strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, and future limitations. Otherwise, you’ll lead your clients astray, damage your reputation, and stifle your career potential.

Once you know who you are and what clients want from a consultant, then you’ll be able to do some pretty incredible things.

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