As much as I want this article to be not directly targeted for IT consultant, I guess it has IT scope more. But I am sure anyone who is involved in consulting, will be able find something valuable here.
Learn your content
You are destined to be a consultant now. No matter your level is, you are being consulted because of your knowledge that your client doesn’t have. Every client you’ll see, they will expect your guidance more than anything. Not knowing something is alright. But “not learning” is not. That’s why, being advised about your content is the most crucial matter. And impressive things are always appreciated, for example; you are an IT employee and you are about to be making a demo, being swift about the usage of that screen will give the impression to client that you are knowing what you are doing. Also, before you get into the meeting please think about how to explain the discussion topic as simple as you can. Remember, you need to pass your know-how to client, as fast as possible. So that you can find a solution together.
As a consultant, it’s important for you to be confident when talking to your clients. This shows that you know what you’re doing and helps build trust. Your confidence helps clients feel that you can handle their problems well. When you explain things clearly and simply, clients can understand the value of your work. Being confident also helps you handle tough situations and adapt to changes. By staying confident, you make your clients feel secure and create a good working relationship. They can also see that you are not afraid of being creative and provide better solutions.
Keep calm no matter what
Since you are expected to be knowledgable on your area, every now and then, you’ll be pushed to your boundaries. The client may not like the proposal you’ve made as the solution, or can be just having a bad day. As per result, they may push your buttons. In that heated conversation you are having, you should not lose your temper in any means. They are your client and even though it’s not alright what they are doing, they can come at you in a disturbing manner. These are the moments that can make you end up losing your client. Just breathe and stay calm, it will get back to you as a big win. You can also choose to flatter them with some nice words to cool down the room. Or you can just choose to continue discussion later.
Create to-do list
You might be smart, you can be a consultant with a memory of gazillion terabytes. But this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t skip anything. We all get distracted and can forget some things every once in a while, that’s normal. There are a lot of to-do apps/software to get you up to speed with your work. Just go over it every evening for the remaining things. In the morning just prioritize them for the whole day. You don’t have to check/update it immediately during the day. Just go through your emails, go through your mind, list them every end of the day. It won’t even take 5 minutes of your time. If you end up using MS OneNote, that will also keep the date and time for your items. That will later on help you to enter your efforts for billing/effort entry.
Be connected as much as you can
Of course, everyone needs their “off” period. We don’t live for work. We work to cherish the accomplishments in our daily life. Especially after covid, work/life balance have gotten into each other a lot. But being connected to your messaging services (Teams, WhatsApp etc.) will clearly show everyone that you are highly responsible with your work. Giving the message as you are “reliable”.
You might be liking being blunt, or you might be liking describing yourself as one. Doesn’t matter. This is a job that you need to be carrying yourself and your client, together. Even sometimes your colleagues. So you need to bend the atmosphere into your liking. However this also doesn’t mean that everything will fall into your liking. Do not jump into act immediately. Manage them later after a well thought process. If you haven’t been able to manage the situation in that exact moment, just go think about how you can benefit. Give yourself time. Take out the best action.
Documentation is important, especially if you are IT. Solutions you’ve created, version changes, anything that may help you on your further projects. This even can include a basic copy/paste of an older code or a simple flow diagram. One thing for sure, you’ll want to remember what exactly you’ve done in a project 5 years ago. In those moments with one-of-many dilemmas, documentation will be a life saver. There are lots of documentation tools, easy to work with… MS OneNote, Evernote, even sometimes just a notepad/textedit can work.
Take notes, per meeting
We discuss everything. With a lot of involvement from different souls. Many comments, relevant or irrelevant of topic. Eventually you get the requirement and propose solution. No matter if solution is accepted or refused, it is a progress for the end solution you’ll find. This means you need to remember %90 of what you discussed. So that you can cook it properly, later in a solid documentation that can be signed off.
Also meeting minutes to be sent to everyone involved in the meeting for all decisions and alignments are convenient. Afterwards those minutes can be used for reference purposes later in time. Actually MS Outlook has a functionality to ease this process. Right click over the meeting in the calendar and click “Send to OneNote”. Your whole available attendance will be moved into the MS OneNote, so that you can track also who was involved during your note taking.
If you need to use MS Excel, learn it well
Excel has become an everyday tool for shared-input, calculations, master-data management, transaction management, even sometimes demonstrations for any consultant. If it is somewhat relevant for your work (for SAP consultants like me, it is), learn Excel with many aspects. So keeping some everyday shortcuts in mind are pretty convenient to use.
CTRL + Shift + L = Filter/Sort
CTRL + Arrow = Go to the end/beginning of row/column
ALT + H + O + I = Autofit Columns
And when there are big files/worksheets involved, Microsoft recently has given us the use of the Power Query. This is a bit intermediate level of technical knowledge, but using this tool you can make “LEFT/RIGHT Outer Join”s which basically means merging of multiple tables. Also last but not least, V/H/XLOOKUP formulas are a lifesaver. Definitely learn how to use them. Of course these suggestions only give a certain level of speed to your plate in Excel, two-day jobs can become 1 hour job.
Of course, just like any other job, also in the consultancy path, everyone develops their own way of working. These are my thoughts after a decade of work.
I hope, as a consultant, you can see a million faces, and rock them all.