9 Consulting Skills To Be a Successful Consultant
Updated 15 July 2023
Consultants provide expert guidance to help businesses solve their problems. Consulting is an exciting industry with opportunities to work with several clients on different projects. Having top-notch consultant skills can help you succeed in the competitive world of consulting. In this article, we discuss the top consultant skills you need to excel in this field.
What are consulting skills?
Consulting skills refer to the mix of competencies that consultants rely on to create solutions for their clients. Skilled consultants can assess and understand their clients' needs and recommend the most effective solutions for them. Consulting is a wide-ranging industry that features different professions because businesses in a wide variety of industries need professionals to solve their problems, and consultants are the perfect professionals for their purpose.
Types of consulting skills
In your consulting career, your role involves collecting and analysing data, and using insights to create strategies and solutions for clients. You need to possess the following types of consulting skills:
1. Creative thinking
Creative thinking is the ability to think about a concept, situation or problem in an unconventional or divergent way. It is necessary to solve the unique problems that you'll face when consulting for businesses. A creative consultant often seeks advice from others when faced with a difficult problem. They encourage brainstorming, which helps generate ideas from multiple individuals.
Businesses need consultants who think creatively and can adapt their thought patterns to fit the situation. The way businesses sell, compete, and grow is evolving and there are rarely any established strategies that retain long-term effectiveness.
As a consultant, your first job is to solve problems. You should be able to listen to your clients' concerns about their businesses and address those concerns. A client may need help with creating a business plan. Another may need you to create an onboarding programme for new employees. Whatever it is, having excellent problem-solving skills means you can handle their unique issues without making mistakes.
3. Practical thinking
Practical thinking is the ability to align yourself with reality and to focus on the tangible. Consultants have to think practically if they want to help their clients achieve results. Practical thinking transforms an idea, vision or thought into reality. The consultant listens to the client's vision and creates an action plan for the execution of that vision.
An example of practical thinking in action is refining a business idea, creating a project for its implementation, and assigning tasks to different individuals. This way, the business idea has a better chance of implementation.
The ability to work as part of a team is vital because you'll often need to collaborate and interact with other professionals to achieve deliverables. The ability to work with a team is necessary for consultants who aspire to leadership positions. When you understand the principles of teamwork, gaining support for your views and decisions becomes easier.
5. Excellent decision-making
Decision-making is a vital skill every consultant needs to build a successful career. Clients often hire consultants with a proven ability to make excellent decisions that guarantee results. Businesses can make decisions if they want to, but companies often rely on consultants' objectivity because they hope it will lead to better business decisions.
6. Branding to establish professional credibility
Credibility is proof that supports your claims of expertise in an area. For consultants, building credibility through good branding is a skill that they must practise for career advancement. There are many ways to build credibility in consultancy. You can create a personal website and post useful articles for businesses. An alternative is to create a podcast or a social media channel to disseminate helpful consulting information.
The other way to build your professional credibility is to acquire academic qualifications and professional certifications. The Institute of Management Consulting (Singapore) and Singapore Business Advisors and Consultants Council (SBACC) are two bodies that offer certifications for prospective consultants.
7. Organisation and time management
Time management is another important skill for consultants. Your business also relies heavily on your organisational skills to function effectively. You may need to consult for different clients simultaneously and this may require you to juggle multiple engagements. Your ability to organise and use time efficiently to execute projects is what makes you a true professional. Indeed, business owners use organisation and time management as criteria for selecting consultants. When they see that you're organised and adept at completing projects promptly, their trust in your abilities grows.
8. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills, or people skills, are the tools that help you create better relationships with other people. Consultants need to have interpersonal skills in order to execute client projects successfully. Irrespective of how much planning goes into a project, its odds of success rely on your relationship with other stakeholders. When you have great interpersonal skills, you're a "people person". Being a people person means you can interact with people, listen to them, win their trust, and collaborate effectively to achieve set objectives.
The importance of communication in areas like business is why this is a skill consultants should look to develop. Management consultants need to understand how to communicate their ideas in a way that inspires agreement. Effective communication not only helps pass information, but it can also improve relationships and prevent conflicts by minimising misunderstandings.
Say you have to create a plan to increase the efficiency of a restaurant operation. Instead of announcing your preferred changes, it is better to first talk with employees and address any concerns they may have about the new policy.
3 ways to improve your consulting skills
Working with clients is a great way to improve your consulting skills and set yourself apart from the competition. By taking on different clients, you expose yourself to different problems that force you to develop new skill sets. Here are some other tactics for improving your consulting skills:
1. Invest in continuing education
There are courses that teach one or more of the skills listed in this article. Sign up for those courses and take the lessons to build up your capabilities in each skill. You can also take the certification courses offered by groups like IMCS or SBACC. These certifications prove to employers that you have demonstrated ability in the core consulting skills.
2. Follow influencers
Experts in consulting publish content that address concerns about the role of skills in the profession. You can follow subject matter specialists in your field and get their insights in books, videos, and courses to position your consultancy for success.
Developing skills takes practice, even as a consultant. It's important that you continue to hone your skills until they become part of you. Say you wanted to expand your creative thinking abilities. You can pick a management problem and resolve to create at least five different strategies for solving it. Work on this task for at least an hour every day for months and it will lead to a spike in your creativity. The same goes for other skills as well—when you practise them, they become easier for you. While practice may feel boring, execution is where things become fun.
How to highlight your consulting skills
Whether you're applying for a job or pitching to clients, highlighting your key skills can increase your prospects of a favourable response. Here are some tips for presenting your consulting skills:
1. Show results
When you describe your skills, back it up with verifiable and quantifiable results. Doing this helps employers and clients to see how you apply those skills to real-life situations. A simple way to show results is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, and Result) method. You don't have to list all the components, but make sure to provide sufficient context about the challenge and what you have done to manage these situations.
Example: "I created an action plan for a winery business to help improve efficiency and maintain stability. Even with a major change in management, I was able to cooperate with the new leadership to implement the necessary measures."
2. Practise answers beforehand
Certain interviews may look to test your understanding of consulting skills and check if you have them at all. You can ensure success in those situations by practising beforehand.
Example: “Question: How do you manage time?
Answer: Effective time-management is being able to apportion time to different projects without losing out on the heavy work. I manage time by using my calendar apps as well as a schedule and digital to-do list. Together, these tools keep me on track and prevent me from wasting time on a project."
3. Demonstrate your skills
You won't win every client by pitching or get every job by applying to open positions. In some situations, certain clients may notice your skills and recommend you to others for hiring. However, there's no way anyone will give a good recommendation if you don't show your skills. Depending on certain factors, how you demonstrate your skills may differ.
For example, you can show how well-organised you are by staying on top of your meetings and projects and completing tasks ahead of time. You can demonstrate your problem-solving skills by coming up with several strategies for solving your clients' problems.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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