Consultants are in high demand. Businesses want to know the best ways to do things, but they require professional, high-quality support to make it happen.
However, consultants face various challenges. Offering complex advice is not without risk.
Therefore, this article draws together the best advice from people already operating in the industry. We explore their techniques and strategies to ensure they deliver effective complex advice while remaining trustworthy and credible in their fields.
Effective consultants always deliver their ideas with explanations, instead of leaving it up to the client to figure out what they mean. Explaining one’s reasoning can be a potent tool to build trust and get buy-in from firms.
Explanations and stories are also excellent selling tools. If consultants can tell a story about why a firm isn’t succeeding and what it needs to do to move forward, they can capture people’s imagination and encourage them to take action. Explanations provide the impetus many people need to understand why they need to do certain things, even if it feels hard.
Modern consultants are also becoming more proactive in their advisory roles. Professionals are seeking ways to improve service delivery, enabling clients to act on the information they provide.
A prime way to approach this presently is to train stakeholders within the firm to carry out the actions consultants recommend. Therefore, consultancy is moving in the educational direction, providing essential guidance to individuals embroiled in the firm’s processes.
The other trend is for consultants to implement projects themselves. Professionals take the lead, directing internal staff and developing strategies as a fully-fledged partner of the firm.
Another tip for consultants is to establish their expertise, something professionals in the space strongly recommend. Building authority and credibility is essential for winning business. Clients need to believe that the consultants they hire can provide value for the fees they request.
Solo consultants should focus on their generalist and specialist skills. Firms often want a combination of both, presented in a way that reflects their processes. For example, they need individuals who understand how their software works so that they can slot in and start providing value immediately instead of having to go through an extensive learning curve.
The other strategy is to learn wider skills beyond those the client wants, according to some industry insiders. Companies are looking for consultants who understand how solutions dovetail with the wider context.
Get Proper Cover
Another piece of advice trumpeted repeatedly is the value of buying proper cover. Consultants who fail to invest in insurance run the risk of being sued and going out of business.
According to Simply Business, products like professional indemnity insurance can help protect consultants in the event of a claim. “We want to tell people that they can get insurance for making business mistakes. It’s called professional indemnity insurance and it means insurers will pay settlements and penalties if clients launch lawsuits. Consultants can usually pick it up as part of a package of services designed to give them peace of mind.”
Be Careful With Costs
Consultants must also be careful with costs and expenses when providing complex advice to customers. Delving deeply into a company’s systems and rummaging around for issues to fix can be time-consuming. Consultants often find themselves pondering for longer than they anticipate, pushing down the value of their working time per hour.
As such, many consultants reduce these risks by charging by the hour. In this case, experts recommend they warn their clients in advance and regularly check in with them to ensure their fees are still in the acceptable range.
The other approach is to investigate consultations more deeply before beginning them to provide a comprehensive quote. Consultants are using contracts to ensure clients agree to various terms, including paying more if project scope expands or changes in any way.
Expenses can mount rapidly as a consultant on longer projects, so experts also recommend consultants put sophisticated tools in place to plan for these. Costs can be substantially higher than many believe, owing to transportation costs and the price of providing materials (in addition to consultant time). Prices also go up significantly if the project requires teams of consultants.
Stay Up To Date
The consulting industry is currently going through a lull, with many larger firms struggling to attract clients and build larger incomes. Famous brands, such as McKinsey and Co. are in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Part of the problem here is the inability of some of these companies to stay up to date. Falling behind the times is making them less relevant to clients, preventing them from making substantial headway.
That’s why many professionals recommend staying on the cutting-edge. In 2023, that’s AI, but in the future, it could be other breakthrough technologies that benefit businesses.
Staying up to date requires continuous learning in the proper manner. Professionals who invest in career development schemes and stay abreast of the latest trends are better able to provide their clients with valuable insights that help them achieve their business objectives.
Communicating directly is another essential trait for consultants offering complex advice. Having the ability to break complicated subjects and topics into digestible component parts is a tremendous skill.
Direct communication means using simple language that gets to the point. Consultants should look for ways to identify and eliminate potential issues before they become real problems that hold up work or put the company in danger.
Combining simple languages with thorough explanations is one of the most powerful ways to communicate with the C-suite and board. This approach makes it more likely companies will rehire the consultant in the future.
Finally, consultants are gathering more feedback to discover what’s good, and what’s not so good about their services. This process might be time-consuming, but it helps to illuminate weaknesses and blindspots requiring improvement in the future.
So, there you have it: some of our tips for consultants who provide complex advice to clients. Professionals should be afraid to protect themselves.