Four Helpful Tips for Becoming a Better Consultant

There are some other things I can do that may increase my influence as consultant* (whether I am in a formal or informal consulting role). For example: there are thousands and thousands of people making a living, some quite a handsome living, by sharing expertise and knowledge with those who need it. They are called consultants and I sometimes do what they do with my client base: my spouse, friends, family, co-workers, etc. However, there are some rules of the consulting game that I must follow because if they are not followed, any influence I might have had can be lost.

Tip # 1: Get hired. I don’t necessarily mean get paid. I’m talking about getting emotionally or psychologically hired by the person or persons I want to influence. Consultants advertise, do their best to get hired, try to “sell” their services and I can do that too, do whatever it takes to get my clients to want my input. But I never, never try to share my information and expertise until my client says, “Go ahead — tell me what you know,” or some other “you’re hired” message like that.

consultant leadership communication trainingTip # 2: Have information and data not possessed by my client. There’s a consultant’s joke about this rule. It goes like this: A company was having trouble with one of their machines and hired an expert to come in and fix it. The consultant looked the machine over, took a hammer from his tool kit and gave the machine a good whack. With that the machine began working and is still working. The consultant handed the manager a bill for ten thousand and ten dollars for his fee. The manager said: “What’s this? Heck, anyone could have come in here and hit the damned machine with a hammer.” The consultant said, “You’re right. That’s what the ten dollars is for. The ten thousand is for knowing where to hit.”

To be an effective consultant I need to know where to hit. If my clients already know, they don’t need me.

Tip # 3: Share expertise once. If I want to consult again I have to get hired again. Many well meaning parents, teachers, bosses, friends, spouses and the like continue consultation long after their clients have heard the pitch. They get fired as consultants for what is perceived to be hassling. Husbands and wives get fired. Teachers get fired. Bosses get fired. Etc.

Tip # 4: I must leave responsibility with my clients for implementation. What my clients do with the information and data I share with them is up to them. Unless I’m rehired I can’t re-consult.

The issue for consultants is influence. Consultants have no power. By definition, they rely on “knowing where to hit” to influence their clients. People’s values and beliefs are not cast in stone. People who have knowledge and facts, who have experience and wisdom, who demonstrate competency, can change them. These are characteristics that influence.

Think back on your life. Who were the people who most influenced you? What did they do or not do, say or not say that made you want to learn from or be like them? I would be willing to bet that the people who influenced you demonstrated the characteristics of good consultants.

Now, think of people who attempted to influence you and failed. Who were they? What did they do or not do, say or not say that turned you off? Once again, I would gamble that these people did not demonstrate the characteristics that influence.

*Please note that I am not a consultant—I just play one in this Blog.

Share this:

Learn more about L.E.T.