What makes a good consultant: 6 key traits for success

Take a look at the most important personal qualities of successful consultants.

woman typing on laptop

Interested in joining the consulting industry? What makes a good consultant is not only their experience of a specific field. Great consultants also have a wide range of qualities that make them valuable to their clients – some learned, some based on personality traits.

Thinking of starting a consulting business? Take a look at the most important personal qualities of successful consultants before you take the leap.

Consultant working on laptop
Credit: Christina Morillo

1. You don’t just do – you teach

Part of the reason you’re being brought into a business is to fill a skills or knowledge gap. Sharing your techniques and principles with staff should be part of your service, leaving them better equipped when you leave than when you arrived. Being a great teacher also means you’ll have a place in their hearts over the long term, and you’ll be the first person they think of when the next big challenge comes along.

So if you’re articulate, patient and great at communication, you’ve got this one in the bag.

2. You can build trust

Coming into a business as an outsider means your first job is to develop good working relationships based on trust. To help this happen, you need to be straightforward about your role and what you’re there to achieve, so that people know what to expect from you.

Succeeding in the consulting industry is all about demonstrating your value and reliability. That means you’ll need to make sure you follow through on any agreements you make and stick to timelines. If you say you’ll be there for a meeting, be there – accountability goes a long way towards building trust.

People who are open, straightforward and sociable have a natural advantage here.

piling up pieces

3. You leave your ego at the door

When you’re consulting, it’s all about your client. Yes, you’re fantastic at your job and you want to make a great impression, but the task in hand is to solve their business problems, which should come ahead of any self-consciousness or pride in your work.

Part of the nature of consulting is going into businesses where there are established ways of doing things, and challenging the status quo. Not everyone will appreciate this, and sometimes you’ll come up against resistance or criticism that you don’t recognize as valid. Instead of arguing your point, keep your goal in mind – it’s all about solving problems, not being right or wrong.

If you’re confident, thick-skinned and good at separating head from heart, you already know a lot about how to be a good consultant.

4. You’re adaptable and can think on your feet

You thought you’d been hired in to solve one business challenge – and somehow you’ve ended up in the middle of something completely different. Business priorities can change and adapt at hyper-speed, especially in fast-moving fields like technology or social media.

Thinking fast and being able to let go of existing ideas and soak up new ones is invaluable in the consulting industry. If you learn fast and you’re good at transferring your skills to different scenarios, even better.

The ideal personality traits for this part of your role? Creative, spontaneous and lively.

Hardcover notebook with notes and doodles

5. You know how to listen

It sounds so simple, but it can take real effort to listen well. As a consultant, you need to take in a huge quantity of new information before you can begin to do your job. Discovering the nature of the business you’re in, the challenges it’s facing and the style of communication used are all big listening jobs that lay the foundation for effective consulting.

If your approach tends to be reflective, thoughtful and detail-oriented, you’re off to a great start.

6. You’re your own brand ambassador

When you’re working inside someone else’s business, it’s easy to let their culture and corporate structures become your own. But if you’re planning to become a successful consultant and have more than one client over your lifetime, you’ll need a developed sense of your identity as an independent professional, regardless of who’s paying the invoices.

A good consultant is his or her own brand, with an established ethos and approach. Collateral like Flyers, Postcards and even Stickers are a great way to cement your brand identity, as well as market yourself to new clients.

Classic business cards

Self-promotion is crucial to become a successful consultant. Create unforgettable Business Cards and Letterhead to make a lasting impression.

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