15 Key Values Clients Look For in Consultants
When you’re working a normal 9 – 5 job, with a well-defined job description, it can be easier to work out what’s expected of you than when you branch out into being a self-employed consultant. Every industry (and every client!) will require something slightly different, but despite this, several key ideas reoccur, regardless of the type of project, size of company and level of experience.
1. Finishing on time and on budgetThe ability to stay within a time frame and not blow a budget is key. Everything in business is about the bottom line, and clients will appreciate anything you can do to cut costs and shorten deadlines.
2. Minimising disruptionChanges will be made, but making them in an empathetic, gradual way is essential. Clients won't want someone to march in and turn their world upside-down within the first five minutes.
3. Honesty – even when it hurtsIt's never going to be easy all the time, and companies need you to be honest and upfront. If something isn't working, stop it - don't wait for minor blips to blow up.
4. Unique solutions; not one size fits allYou may have solid tactics and great technique, but clients want to know that your method is bespoke to them; not a tried-and-tested solution that will fix most of their problems.
5. Leave before you're askedIt can be hard to walk away from a business near the end – especially if you've managed programmes for a lengthy duration – but it's essential to leave gracefully as soon as your job is finished.
6. Great listening abilitiesAll clients want to be listened to, and not have someone running off to plan solutions before they've reached the end of their list of troubles. Get the full picture before trying to clean it up – so this means asking relevant questions, and letting your client finish everything they want to say.
7. ProfessionalismAlways retain a professional relationship between you and your client, regardless of how close you work, and how long you're there for. Turn down work from any competitors, and respect the company's ethics and values.
8. A useful contact listCan't figure something out? Find someone who knows more about it than you do. Clients will expect you to have a network of contacts to call upon when you can't do it yourself – and for their own future reference.
9. Experience across the boardHaving a wide range of experience is a vital factor. Whether you’re working with board directors or ground staff, they want to know that you've worked on similar projects, with similar sized companies, and in the same industry with successful results.
10. Fair pricesMoney is often the crucial deal-maker or breaker, so get your prices right. Let clients know exactly what you're going to charge them, without any surprise fees at the end.
11. Staying on topYou've been called in for a reason, so make sure you're fully briefed on new trends in the industry. This could be anything from social media strategies to budget technologies.
12. Constant proactivityAlways retain a professional relationship between you and your client, regardless of how close you work, and how long you're there for. Turn down work from any competitors, and respect the company's ethics and values.
13. Happy to do the 'dirty work'Whether you end up trawling through records no one else can face or proposing (and implementing) budget cuts, sometimes doing your job will require getting your hands a little dirty.
14. There to push harderPeople may be unhappy to step outside of their comfort zone, offer up extra resource, or commit to changes, so you have to reassure them that what you're suggesting is necessary, and push them until it happens.
15. Conflict managementDifferences in opinion are inevitably going to happen, and clients will expect you to be able to reassure them before conflict arises.