New Year's Resolutions: Improve your consulting techniques in 2016
Whether a junior consultant or a senior partner, there are plenty of skills in your daily work work that are always essential. But as you progress within a company, sometimes it is easy to forget what the key competencies are that you were hired for in the first place. Our best techniques become dulled through routine and over confidence, our personalities more ingrained.
But New Year's resolutions give the opportunity for us all to reflect on ourselves and set new goals for the months ahead – and that doesn't just have to be post-Christmas guilty feelings of starting a new diet and exercise regime! Your professional life can benefit from some added focus on certain areas that will keep you being able to offer the best strategy advice out there!
Take a look at our list of things to keep in mind this year as you prepare to reach new heights and become a master consultant that advises, leads and inspires others every day!
Keep up to date – Business models are changing, and fast! Just take a look at the boom of online retail and the new apps that are brought out every single day. Make sure the advice you are giving a client is not already outdated. Set up Google alerts for the current businesses you are dealing with and their top three competitors - this will give you notifications of the latest online information collated from news sites and blogs related to the key words you specify.
Know your client – This will never get old. Make sure you are always certain of key information such as market capital, gross profit, overall revenue, margins etc. It will always look good when you can pull out these key numbers quickly from your head without having to go and double check.
Don't ignore innovators and start ups – The digital world is bringing start up companies to worldwide prominence quicker than ever before. New apps and innovations are happening constantly so don't ignore then as 'small fry'….they may be surprisingly swift at becoming the biggest competitor to your client!
Always review previous projects – Clients are probably going to have had consultants brought in to advise them on how to grow and improve in the past. If so, this could prove to be a great knowledge library to build from. Avoid simply recreating the research and proposals that has been done before….it may be easier, but will not earn you any favours!
Use the cloud – Technology is great but can also be a nuisance when it goes wrong. Create a shared hub of presentations, reports, formatted spreadsheets, industry primers, information booklets etc that can be accessed on the cloud anywhere, any time. Not only will this give everyone in the firm a place to grab some templates but also allow you to access your work if your laptop or usb fail.
Never forget to proofread – No matter how experienced you are, you can always make mistakes. Offer to proofread someone else's work in exchange for yours. You will only benefit by seeing how your colleagues do their write ups and avoid any terrible spelling errors that will make you look unprofessional. Swaps like this will also keep you abreast of what else is happening within your firm. But don't be too concerned with syntax over the actual summary and synthesis of your arguments that are really the most important part of a report.
Be persuasive, not pushy – Your role as a consultant is purely to analyse and offer options. It is not your place to push for one outcome or another so let the customer decide. Consulting is as much about client service as solving problems and analysis – never forget that the customer is always right! When pitching your proposals, just make sure the pitch is competitive and shows your consultancy as the best one out there for the job - the client will buy into it without having to be pushed.
Don't see the business in black and white – Always be nuanced in the way you approach a new project. The world of business has so many shades of grey in it that you must not assume that a strategy that worked for a similar client will work for another. Thorough research and distinct analysis is always paramount.
Remain punctual – An obvious point but it is always important to uphold the highest standard of customer service when meeting clients. Being late will never make a good impression, even if you are a senior partner. Also, if you maintain punctuality, clients will also respect and appreciate your time as valuable and adhere to your timescales more efficiently.
Save time for the big picture – It is all too easy to get bogged down in the numbers and small details when working on an analysis. Remember your real function as a consultant is to translate complex statistics into a synthesis snapshot that is easy to explain to your client. Make sure the easy parts of report making do not take unnecessary time (see our previous blogs on Excel wizardry!) and always put aside time to contemplate the overall arguments you are presenting.