Posted: Tue 20th May 2014
Your expertise, your technical knowledge, your experience with solving problems? Yes, of course you need these skills, but there is one skill that you need, whichever field you are in, that will elevate you from a good consultant to a very successful consultant.
So, what is the one single most important skill to set you on the path of a consulting career? Developing a great customer relationship.
You need to give your clients a warm secure feeling. The feeling that you can solve their problems, you will support them, you are committed to their success and you will achieve their objectives. To sum it up: trust. A client needs to trust you to take care of their business. And, of course, with trust comes repeat business and referrals. A good customer relationship open doors and builds your business.
So, what are good customer skills?
The foremost skill you can have is to listen. Are you really hearing what your client is telling you? Ask questions. Probe further and read between the lines. Make sure you really understand what your clients' problems are before you tell them how you can help them.
Only tell your client what is relevant to them. Once you have determined exactly what issues your clients want you to solve, deal with these specifically. Further on you may identify other issues that need to be addressed, but first of all you need to address the issues that are paramount to your clients.
No two clients are the same. There may be similar issues but all solutions will be different. Treat every customer as a 'new' project and give them their own individual solution.
The importance of communication cannot be overstated. Keep your client informed of your progress on a regular basis. Ask for feedback and clarify the expected final deliverables to ensure you stay on track with your clients expectations. When you encounter a problem that requires additional time or knowledge, or something goes wrong, tell your client immediately. Bad news only gets worse with time. Your integrity and honesty will earn your clients trust.
Go the extra mile. And even more importantly - be seen to go the extra mile. You may wish to put in additional time or research in a particular area or maybe a task was unproductive so you decided not to charge for it, but make sure you let your customers know the level of effort you've exerted on their behalf.
Make sure you can always be contactable. You need to be easily accessible. Always return missed calls promptly. A friendly positive attitude will mean your client turns to you when he has a problem. Make sure you are easy to do business with and your clients will want to do business with you.
With good customer relationships your business will go from strength to strength. Customer service is the single biggest factor for a successful consulting practice.
Wendy Church, Consultancy Hub. Consultancy Hub offers training, business services and support for independent consultants.
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