Something that a consultant always strives for with their client is credibility. That’s why client sales proposals almost always include things like the history of the firm and their previous clients. Consulting firms want the client to know that they’ve been around the block a few times and have experience.
How to establish consultant credibility
The same goes for consultants when they get to a client site. The client may trust the firm, but how do they know this new person has the knowledge and background to deliver the quality that the client expects. Firms often provide the client a firm-branded resume of their consultants and even let the client interview and approve people for key roles. For the most part, the client gets the team the firm provides. The client can always ask the firm to remove a consultant from a team if they don’t fit in well (more on that in next week’s blog).
It’s up to the individual to establish consultant credibility. Here are three ways to establish trust and credibility when starting as a new consultant:
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
1) Listen. Too often, new consultants want to spew out everything they know to let to their new client know they are legit. The client is usually more concerned with their own business issues, which is why they hired the consulting firm. Focusing on the client’s issues with the goal of resolving them will impress them more than touting your accomplishments.
2) Talk, but not too much. Most clients will start out trusting you unless you give them a reason not to. By hiring the firm, they are assuming the firm has done their due diligence in hiring their consultants. The client will most likely observe you for a while and may eventually ask you to speak. It most likely won’t be an interrogation; they may ask you something about the project or what you are working on. When it finally becomes your turn to speak, answer the question, provide enough detail to help them understand your answer and let them know what you’re doing, but avoid droning on about every detail so that they’re sorry the asked. Provide a high-level summary. If they ask for more detail, provide it, but watch for signs that they have enough understanding. Every manager has their own threshold of detail that they want. Try to stop before their eyes roll to the back of their head.
3) Complete your tasks correctly the first time. Nothing proves credibility for a new consultant more than just doing your job well. You may be labeled as too talkative or too quiet by the client, but doing high-quality work is like a Hawaiian shirt on a middle-aged man – it hides a lot of sins.
So, in a nutshell, know when to shut up, know when to talk and do a good job. Easy, right?
What do you do to establish consultant credibility?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.