“As an Independent Consultant, are you getting the rewards that you expect and deserve?”
Independent Consulting can be an incredibly fulfilling profession both in terms of the satisfaction of really making a difference to clients and the financial rewards it can bring to you. However, you know that it is a great challenge to both sell and deliver “solo” and the that the cost of failure is potentially high. If you have difficulty in gaining or retaining clients, then this will lead to gaps between contracts and an income that may not make ends meet.
Therefore, building the right business foundation is vital to realise all the benefits and reduce the risk of failing.
In my experience there are 4 pillars of success for Independent Consultants which, when combined, will help you build the right platform and direction for the business; and will help you enjoy the rewards that you expect and deserve. These are:
- Vision and strategy;
- Professional credibility;
- Consulting capabilities;
- Marketing and sales competence.
The majority of businesses will have some sort of vision which describes why they are in business and what’s their overall purpose. Underlying the vision will be a strategy or a roadmap to achieve it.
Do you have a vision and a strategy for your business? In my experience Independent Consultants generally 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 solid base for your business.
So, my first pillar of success for Independent Consultants is having a structured vision and strategy.
You are likely to have either transitioned to Independent Consultancy from an employed consulting role or from business management. Either way you will have built a track record of effective delivery, have extensive experience and developed specific expertise in one or more fields. You may have an in-depth knowledge of an industry, or a business function, or of a specific subject matter area. You could have attained mastery of a business process, system or way of working. You may have specific professional qualifications. All these experiences from business provide authority and credibility for you in the eyes of clients.
As such I see professional credibility as the second pillar of success for an Independent Consultant.
Whilst professional credibility is a fundamental ingredient, this expertise needs to be used differently as an Independent Consultant rather than working in a business role. Let me say more…
I see the role of an Independent Consultant as being the catalyst for driving sustainable business transformation or change with clients. An Independent Consultant must shift behaviours from doing business - working in a business role - to transforming business. By that I mean taking clients and their teams on a journey from identifying burning platforms for change, developing new solutions or ways of working, implementing these solutions and embedding the change within the organisation.
To do this effectively, Independent Consultants need to develop a new set of skills, consulting capabilities.
I see these in two categories…
Firstly, there are core consulting capabilities that can be leveraged in any project at any phase of the business transformation or change process. It’s your “bread and butter” if you like. Examples of these could be could be project management, stakeholder management, problem solving techniques, meeting management, facilitation skills, process mapping, giving and receiving feedback and effective team working.
Then there are delivery consulting capabilities that are more appropriate to a specific phase of a transformational journey. These include visioning, strategy development, opportunity identification, business case development, defining new ways of working, implementation planning, implementation, benefits tracking and sustaining change.
I see consulting capabilities as the third pillar of success for an Independent Consultant.
Of course, no matter how robust your vision and strategy is, no matter how strong your professional credibility is, no matter now 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 means 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, avoid gaps between contracts and deliver the rewards we are looking for.
Marketing and sales is rather scientific really and to be effective you need to be able to answer, “yes”, to the following questions:
- Have you defined your target market?
- Do you have a compelling value proposition that describes your professional credibility and consulting capabilities in a client centric way?
- Are you communicating your benefits through multiple lead generation strategies?
- Do you have 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 help you assess where you are against the 4 pillars of success, set new targets, track your progress and help you reap the rewards that you expect and deserve as an Independent Consultant.