Consulting Skill: Know the Client’s Business

Consulting Skill
Consulting Skill: Know the Client’s Business

Over the years, I’ve seen various levels of client satisfaction with their consultants.  Some consultants make themselves so indispensable that the client tries to hire them as a full-time employee.  On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen clients ask for a consultant to be removed from a project.

The missing consulting skill

In those situations, it can be a personality difference or a bad first impression that they never got over.  In-between those extremes, I’ve been involved in client conversations where we announce that an individual is leaving the project and the client responded with indifference.  The client didn’t love the person enough to be upset with him leaving.

In many cases, the client’s dissatisfaction or lack of enthusiasm over a consultant is due to the fact that the consultant didn’t take the time to learn the client’s business.

For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants

Learning the client’s business

As I look back at the clients I’ve served over my career, I can say with near certainty that my level of success was directly proportionate to the level at which I became familiar with their business.

Many consultants consider themselves generalists.  They know a little bit about a lot of industries.  They feel it’s not important to know the client’s business because they think and work at a much higher level.  In most cases, the client would disagree.

I once knew a consultant that was a quality assurance tester on an IT project.  She became so familiar with the client’s business rules and processes that she regularly pointed out how a business rule would affect downstream processes before most of the client team members could – including the business people that defined the processes.

See my related post: Doing Your Consulting Homework

She was one of those consultants that clients love.  She served at that client for several projects.  She was eventually hired away from the consulting firm to become a full-time employee at the client.

Whether your goal is to get hired by the client or not, consulting firms love employees that they have to fight for.

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 

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