Cassandra is a character from Greek Mythology who was granted the gift of prophesy from the god Apollo. It was on the condition that she would fulfill his amorous desires. Unfortunately, once he granted her that gift and she refused to put out, Apollo cursed her talents so that no one would believe her predictions.
Cassandra suffered from a lack of credibility. Everyone desires to be listened to and believed. We all want to be seen as credible. But there are certain professions in which it is absolutely necessary.
Consulting is one of those professions. A consultant needs to be trusted by his or her clients to provide believable advice and quality professional service. While many consultants will tout their experience with other clients and their knowledge of the business world, here are four ways in which a consultant can establish credibility with their client base.
How to enhance a consultant’s credibility
Do your homework
Clients turn to their consultants to offer advice to improve and grow their business. This requires an in-depth knowledge of the client’s business and their industry. Consultants should also be abreast of current trends in technology and other areas that could affect the client.
Consultants often specialize in a specific industry, such as retail or manufacturing. They may focus only on clients in that industry. Some consultants may be generalists by industry with specialized skills in areas such as technology or marketing. These consultants should hone up on the client’s business model. A good consultant is aware of the strengths, weaknesses and individual strategies of the client and each of their competitors.
For instance, if a client is an e-commerce company, the consulting team should be knowledgeable of cloud technologies, search engine optimization (SEO) and any other technologies that could affect the client’s business.
Do what you say you will do
I’ve seen many occasions where a consulting firm proposes to a new prospective client. They promise them the most knowledgeable consultants and an unrivaled dedication and work ethic.
Once the courtship is over however, the consulting firm doesn’t show the same devotion. There are other clients that require their attention and other proposals to write in order to build up their client base.
Many consultants bring their big guns to the proposal meeting. They fill these meetings with consultants that are deep in industry or technical knowledge. This creates the impression that everyone in the firm knows the client’s business deeply. When the project starts, younger consultants are staffed at the client as on-the-job training, subsidized by the client. they can then learn the industry to take to the next client.
In the sales cycle, a consulting firm is always going to flaunt their best side and their ability to solve a client’s problems. It must be done in an honest approach. I should be without bait-and-switch tactics that lead the prospective client to believe they will get one level of service when the consultant has no intention of actually following through.
Accept responsibility for mistakes, and don’t repeat them
Even the best of consultants make mistakes. And a realistic client has tolerance for an occasional human error. A good consultant recognizes this and admits to the client when they’ve screwed up.
Apologize. Admit that you dropped the ball. Make good on what ever damage you caused and move on. Covering up your mistake or trying to pass blame on others will be transparent to the client and erode their confidence in you.
Put the client’s interests first
Consultants often face conflicts of interests when providing professional services to a client. It is like a lawyer who charges by the hour has an incentive to draw out a case rather than agree to a settlement. Consultants see opportunities to make more money instead of helping the client be more profitable.
For example, if a client approaches a consultant to perform a study to assess their software systems, the consultant may see an opportunity to make more money implementing a new system. However, by providing an honest assessment, even if the consultant doesn’t land a new project, it may instill trust with the client that could pay off many times over in future business. The consultant provided advice with the client’s best interests in mind.
Consultant credibility means being trusted by your clients. It’s difficult for a client to turn to a consultant for advice if they don’t trust that consultant. Credibility is part of the consultant’s reputation and personal brand. Guard it closely.
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.