The 4 pillars of success as an Independent Consultant
In an earlier blog post (“Why success in business does not automatically lead to success as an Independent Consultant…”), I explained why an Independent Consultant who has transitioned from a business management role needs to do things differently. He or she must shift behaviours from doing business to transforming business - being the catalyst for sustainable business transformation with clients.
I then went on to discuss the importance of developing a new set of skills, consulting capabilities, that will enable this transition to happen effectively. I see consulting capabilities as the first pillar of success as an Independent Consultant.
In this blog post I will explore 3 other pillars of success for Independent Consultants.
- Vision and strategy;
- Professional credibility;
- Marketing and Sales Competence.
The majority of businesses will have some sort of vision which describes why they are in business and what is their overall purpose. Underlying the vision will be a strategy or a roadmap to achieve it.
Do Independent Consultants generally have a vision and strategy for their business? In my experience, many do not. I firmly believe, however, that a clear vision and strategy for an Independent Consultant is vital to keep focused on what needs to be achieved and what the journey is to get there. Add into this time bounded, specific objectives plus a method of tracking progress, then there is a great foundation and direction for the business.
So, the second pillar of success for Independent Consultants is a structured vision and strategy.
Whilst consulting capabilities define the ways of working as an Independent Consultant, experiences from business roles provide authority and credibility in the eyes of clients. These could include an in-depth knowledge of an industry, of a business function, or of a specific subject. They could include mastery of a business process or system or specific professional qualifications. All of this represent one’s professional credibility and is my third pillar of success as an Independent Consultant.
Of course, no matter how robust your vision and strategy are, no matter how strong your professional credibility is, no matter how capable you are as a consultant, if you can’t turn all of this into gaining or retaining customers then there’s not much point. And no customers mean no income and no business!
That brings me to the fourth pillar of success, marketing and sales competence.
Marketing and sales is too often what we do least well as Independent Consultants. You could argue, however, that this is the skill that is most important to us. After all, this is what is going to help us bring in a constant stream of clients and avoid gaps between contracts.
Effective marketing and sales is rather scientific really. It’s about defining a target market and developing a compelling value proposition that describes your professional credibility and consulting capabilities in a client centric way. It then involves communicating one’s benefits to clients using multiple lead generation strategies and having a structured sales process to turn leads into paying customers.
Independent Consultants who spend time building a vision and strategy for their businesses, defining what their professional credibility is, building their consulting capabilities and learning how to market themselves and sell effectively, will be setting themselves up for success.
Click here to find out about a new tool, The Independent Consultant’s Index. This will provide more depth about the 4 pillars of success and will help you assess where you are against each, set new targets and track your progress. Click here.