Being a successful technology consultant requires being committed to your clients’ success. By helping your clients deliver better business outcomes, they will reciprocate your investment in the relationship, making it easier to do your job. Here are five tips to fulfill your commitment to deliver those better outcomes:
- Stay within your niche of expertise
It’s no secret that entrepreneurs are ditching their jobs to become consultants in their field of expertise, and statistics suggest it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
In 2016, the global business consulting market was worth $250 billion; out of that figure, the technology consulting market alone was worth $31 billion. As Incfile further explains, the typical entry-level consulting fee is $150/hour and rises to $300/hour for someone with experience. If the consulting industry is worth that much and commands a high entry-level fee, somebody’s doing something right. If you’re consulting within your niche of expertise, that includes you.
Jack-of-all-trades consulting isn’t effective
Today’s freelancers are becoming consultants for everything imaginable, including Salesforce, Infusionsoft, eBay, and more. You’ve probably used all of these platforms at least once, but that doesn’t mean you should become a consultant for all of them.
It’s tempting to become a jack-of-all-trades within the tech industry, but it’s not a good idea. For example, say you’re an IT security consultant who specializes in setting up networks. Business owners might start asking you for help with other things like securing their website, and building their own data center. It’s tempting to start offering advice on somewhat related aspects of tech, but hold off.
Providing advice outside your niche of expertise will water down a client’s perception of your actual expertise. Even if you acknowledge your advice is simply a personal experience, clients will unconsciously accept it as expertise. If something goes wrong, you’ll get blamed.
- Create and deliver on realistic expectations
Your clients are going to follow your advice, hopefully to the letter. However, if you don’t set realistic expectations for your clients, they’ll start to lose faith in you and will begin picking and choosing which advice to follow.
It’s good to hold a big vision for your clients, but make sure that big vision is coupled with realistic expectations to get there. For example, if your client is in a pickle, don’t set them up with unrealistic expectations of a fast resolution. Be honest with them about what they can expect, and if you’ve never experienced their specific setback, let them know.
- Be committed to your clients’ business outcomes
Being committed to your clients’ business outcomes requires a shift in perception. It means putting the client’s best interests first, especially in difficult situations.
For example, say your client calls you to discuss changes in the direction of their business. After hearing the client explain the changes, you suspect they’re actually in a financial crunch and are doing everything they can to save money. The changes they’re making won’t help their business, but they don’t seem to have any other choice. You can continue to consult with them about how to skirt around the perimeter of their root issue, or you can roll up your sleeves and dig in to help where it counts.
Forget about the money, and forget about making your consulting calls easy. When you have the opportunity to help a client in a dire situation, don’t let them drown.
- Always be working with a coach
Every successful coach has a coach, and it’s not just because coaching is popular. Having a coach is an opportunity to learn skills and strategies you can apply to your own coaching clients. Most of all, having a coach will help you see yourself more clearly, which will give you the opportunity to make the necessary changes to be more effective in the world.
When you engage with a good coach, says Erika Anderson, he or she will generally gather input about how others see you at the beginning of the engagement, and share it with you. This reflection is crucial for your client relationships. You need to know how your clients see you, and be inspired to grow wherever you can.
When you’re always in pursuit of learning and growing, you’ll be a bigger asset to your clients.
- Continually learn about your niche and your clients’ situations
The best thing you can do for your clients is to learn as much as you can within your niche. Even the best experts don’t know everything. Keep learning. The more you know, the better you’ll relate to your clients. You’ll be far more effective when you keep learning in your niche.