How to Build an Effective Relationship as a Consultant
Creating long-lasting relationships is the backbone of any good business. But these relationships are even more critical as a consultant. Building an effective client-consultant relationship will help the client gain your trust and allow you to create a unique plan to solve their company’s dilemma.
Four key attributes are paramount to building an effective client-consultant relationship. Trust, relationship management, clear communication, and culture fit. Being able to establish these will help both parties long term and will create an effective relationship between the consultant and the client.
All good relationships are based on trust, and without trust, a relationship can’t even be started. As a consulting partner stepping into a company, you are building a different relationship with the heads of the business. You are engineering plans and are involved in some of the most intimate parts of a company, and if you haven’t gained the full trust of the organization you won’t be able to do the right thing for them.
A relationship with a client is also one that is based on transformation. As someone coming in and introducing substantial changes in an organization, most times, there will be a natural conflict. There will also be times where you as a consultant might not perform, but at the same time, the organization might fail to meet expectations. As a consultant, you will have some difficult conversations with your client. But these conversations can not happen if you haven’t built up the trust needed for difficult situations.
If you can establish a strong foundation of trust with your client, it’s time to focus on managing the relationship and evolving it the longer you work with a company. Building a strong long-term relationship could potentially lead to additional work in the future.
Coming into an organization as someone who is there to make changes or solve problems can cause an uncomfortable dynamic at first, but once everyone feels comfortable with each other, the real work can start.
Many of the clients we consult with live in a world that’s 24/7 and to become their trusted advisor and be an effective consultant, the relationship with the client has to stem from effective communication. If you are not on the same page, the client can not effectively communicate their issues, or you can not effectively communicate your plan, it will not foster a great relationship. Being able to engage in honest dialogues with the company you are consulting with will help you get answers quicker and lead to reaching the company’s goals quicker.
Effective client-consultant communication also allows you to deliver bad news when needed. It’s important to discuss what is going on with the leaders of the company. Keeping the lines of communication open will help each of you gain a better understanding of the business and dig deeper into the issues the organization is facing.
As an independent advisor brought in from the outside, it often takes some time to see situations that may not be evident right away. Sometimes the biggest issues a company is facing are hidden and need to be unearthed by asking questions or observing the way the company is run. Once you’ve figured out what needs to be completed for the client, you need to be able to deliver the news, and without solid communication, messages can get crossed.
Stick to the Culture
As a consultant, it’s important to make sure you are taking jobs that match your skills and fit the style of the company hiring you. If you take a job that doesn’t match your culture or the culture of the business, both parties will be fighting an uphill battle to come together to achieve the goals you are proposing.
While sticking to the culture of the business, it’s also important to make sure the company knows exactly who will be completing the work on their behalf. If you are an independent consultant, make it known that they will be directly working with you the entire time, but if you have additional partners or a team that comes in and implements the plan, discuss this in advance with the client. This helps keep the line of communication open and helps develop everyone’s roles in advance.
When a strong client-consultant relationship is created, it enables both parties to work cohesively and allows the consultant to serve the company. It’s important to remember that these relationships will take time and the more communication you can share with your clients, the more effective these relationships will become.