6 Skills To Stay Competitive in Consulting

5-Apr 2022
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Chelsea Williams COPYWRITER

While employers always appreciate bringing on people who add fresh skills to their teams, there’s a particularly high demand for specific skills in today’s job market — especially in consulting.

A 2020 Statista survey found that one of the most significant obstacles facing consulting companies worldwide was the need for fresh skills. 43.5% of respondents regarded it as a challenge, and 40% said the talent shortage was a problem in the business consulting sector.

It’s imperative to invite and cultivate certain skills if you desire to stay competitive as a consultant. 

Here are six skills that can help you develop stronger connections with clients, equip you with more robust problem-solving abilities and give you an edge as you grow your career. 

1. Strategic Framework Development

As a consultant, your job is to solve problems your clients can't solve themselves. They could have insufficient resources to do so or simply want an objective perspective. To find the workable solutions they’re seeking, you need to think practically.

All consulting analysts should be able to define a problem precisely, as clarity will lay the foundation for mapping out effective solutions. Relying on frameworks can assist with this step.

Frameworks are mental models that help consultants better understand a specific business or topic. Some of the most popular frameworks in the industry are Porter's Five Forces, SWOT and McKinsey 7S. You should be familiar with each and up-to-date on recent company and industry initiatives around these and other frameworks.

Suppose your client wants to know if their expansion plan has the potential to be profitable. You could either take weeks to come to a conclusion using your own methods or leverage the power of a framework to speed up the process.

Frameworks simplify parameters so you can more easily establish feasible estimates — a critical piece of managing clients’ expectations. They can be especially useful if your firm has multiple clients on retainers, as any of your colleagues who work on the same account in the future will be able to reference and understand framework-based decisions.

To sharpen your understanding of how to apply frameworks to client work, you can:

  • Attend industry conferences and workshops
  • Participate in online forums
  • Network with senior consultants who have experience with common frameworks

2. Data Visualization

In the digital age, data is one of an organization's most valuable assets. Numbers speak, and meaningful interpretation of those numbers can help solve complex business problems and enable organizations to make better decisions.

As a consultant, you need to be able to access, analyze and present data clearly and concisely to help your clients understand it. Data analysis skills include trendspotting, pattern-based prediction and post-project insight gathering. 

If you feel a bit weak in these areas, why not try:

  • Taking a course on data visualizations
  • Using tools such as Microsoft's Power BI Desktop or Tableau
  • Participating in online courses offered by third-party service providers 

If your company uses a client work management platform like Accelo, you could also have real-time reporting software at your fingertips to help you comb through important metrics that point to client profitability.

With the right data, you can help clients identify opportunities and risks.

Suppose your client wants to discover the sweet-spot price point for their new product. If you have access to and an understanding of the data, you can pull up competitors' pricing strategies and conduct price monitoring analyses to get to the answer.

3. Advanced Communication Skills

Conveying your ideas and advice to clients without overly technical jargon is key to succeeding in the consulting world.

Many projects require you to provide recommendations related to a business’s struggles in finance, marketing and operations. It's also critical to have the wherewithal to clearly present data-driven insights and solutions.

For instance, if you're explaining market trends and forecasts to a client whose area of expertise is fashion or entertainment, you must know how to get your message across while appealing to their brand’s fun voice, rather than getting lost in technical details.

You can develop strong communication skills by:

  • Learning from senior consultants who have extensive experience in the industry
  • Taking courses on public speaking and leadership
  • Improving your writing by reading or listening to books about entrepreneurship

Strong writing skills are essential because so much client communication happens via email, online messaging and digital presentations. You should be able to craft clear memos and well-organized reports for internal and external purposes.  

A platform that provides project visibility to all parties can help you make the most of your communication skills.

4. Active Listening

One of the most important consulting skills is active listening. If you don't truly listen to your clients, you won't be able to understand their needs and objectives.

Suppose a client wants your input on whether an initiative will help strengthen their brand. If you don't listen actively, you'll miss out on opportunities to fully grasp their goals and support them with customized plans.

Up the caliber of your listening skills by:

  • Asking clarifying questions
  • Paying attention to body language
  • Paraphrasing what someone else has said to ensure you've understood it correctly
  • Pausing before speaking to give yourself a moment to digest the conversation

When you pay closer attention to what others say, you make them feel seen and heard. In client interactions, better listening helps you understand the intricacies of a problem and come up with more spot-on solutions. 

5. Organization and Time Management

Being organized is a requirement for every profession, but it’s particularly important for consultants. You'll need to meet deadlines while juggling other tasks such as creating reports, attending meetings and securing resources for future projects. 

Along with prioritizing the most critical work, spreading out big projects and being ready for changes, using automation tools that can make time logging and project milestone visualization more efficient can help you stay organized.

Organization isn’t possible without solid time management.

Suppose you're working on a client's project when you score a new client who needs an instant overview of what you discussed with them in a pitch meeting. You’ll need to allocate your time accordingly to adequately address both clients’ needs. 

Sales management software that creates detailed quotes and translates them into custom workflows can be a game-changer when it comes to spending time wisely.

6. Creative Thinking

It’s easy to overlook this one because we tend to associate creativity with less business-oriented careers. However, the ability to think creatively is critical in consulting because clients often come to consultants with complex, unique problems. 

Great consultants think outside the box and come up with unique solutions that haven’t been done before.

To develop your creative muscles:

  • Actively take on new challenges to expand your knowledge and experience
  • Experiment with individual and group brainstorming
  • Challenge yourself to come up with new solutions to old problems

With collaboration and a willingness to stretch your creative limits, you’ll find your daily tasks more exciting and make an even greater impact on your clients’ businesses.

With supporting technology like Accelo, you can spend less time managing day-to-day tasks and more time nurturing all six of these must-have skills to confidently advance your consulting career.

 

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