Consulting is one of the most sought after career options in the industry these days, especially when it comes to top B-School placements. More than 30-35% of the batch gets placed in consulting roles in different domains. Consulting roles may however differ in nature; from ERP/IT consulting, Management consulting/Business consulting profiles to research based consulting profiles.
However irrespective of the profiles, the fundamental concept behind consulting remains the same.
“Organizations look for experts to help them with situations or circumstances where in-house employees either don’t have the experience or the skill-sets to handle the same”
In this article, we will focus on the important skill-sets that are needed to become a successful consultant. Most of these skills come with practice and incremental industry experience.
The above figure indicates the key skill-sets needed, not only to survive but also to be successful in the industry. Let us now discuss each of these consulting skills in detail.
Consulting Skills Required for Success :
- Business Management Skills
Business Management skills are about developing a business acumen to understand the problem or circumstance at hand as a business issue which needs to be understood and managed. Each and every solution to that business issue will have business impacts such as cost, revenue, profit, loss, brand value, customer perception, sales figures and many more. It is also about understanding your client well including client organization’s competencies, their vision, their market standing, competitor profiles, their strengths and weaknesses. Any business solution recommended has to be the best fit between their capabilities and the solution for the business problem.
- Industry Knowledge
Domain expertise such as experience in manufacturing /FMCG/Pharma/Oil and Gas sectors and many more, can always help people get into good management consulting roles. Mostly middle or higher level executives have an edge over others when it comes to domain knowledge. They have been through various business scenarios/circumstances, which helps create an instant connect with the client’s business issue.
- Project Management Skills
Every assignment in consulting is basically a project which has a definite start and an end date. Assignments have a fixed duration and need scope management (defining the scope of the project), project planning (defining a project execution methodology, dividing the project into work units/list of tasks with their start and end dates defined), resource management (managing your team, team leadership skills, being a good team worker), controlling aspects (such as checking on delays in the assignment, factoring cost overruns or schedule overruns due to delays in the project. All these skills are needed to successfully plan, execute and close a consulting assignment with the client.
- Problem Solving Skills
A necessity to survive in the industry. Identifying the symptoms of the business issue at hand and finding out the root cause of an issue is a key aspect of any consulting project. Most consulting organizations have a particular framework for identifying the business issue. Each of these steps needs good amount of analytical skills and an ability to find simple solutions for the same keeping in mind the fit between market realities and client organization’s capabilities.
- Adaptability to Circumstances
This willingness to get out of one’s comfort zone and being ready to learn continuously as a way of adapting to changing surroundings, marks a key difference between a successful and an unsuccessful consultant. As a consultant, it is crucial to make a concerted effort to understand that clients have different cultural values, way of doing business (some organizations are risk averse and conservative, while others are risk taking and willing to pounce of any window of opportunity they have).
- Good ideas with good execution plans
“Execution is more important than Planning. Planning is more important than Ideas.”
A good idea without a good execution plan doesn’t really count. Hence as a consultant, one must come out not only with good or as they say out of the box ideas but also with a good execution plan. An execution plan must consist of the following.
- Communication Skills
When it comes to consulting, communication is everything. You don’t only have to be a very good speaker with clarity of thoughts but also be a very good listener. Also, it’s very important that a consultant is able to pick up on needs that have not been expressed explicitly by the customer. Hence, it’s very important for anyone aspiring to be a consultant in a top consulting firm to improve upon their communication skills. This skill needs time and effort for development. If you want to be very fluent in let say English, start generating your thought process in English. When your primary thinking language becomes English, that’s when you will become really fluent and confident.
As mentioned above, Communication skills are broadly classified into 3 categories.
Oral Communication Skills: Good Fluency and Clarity of thought process always helps
Written Communication Skills: One must learn how to write e-mails , notes or even documents which are deliverables such as presentations , reports in proper formats , tone and content.
Nonverbal Communication Skills: It is quoted that non-verbal constitutes more than 50% of any communication. Hence a consultant must learn to gauge the non-verbal expressions of a client and understand those implicit needs of the client. Positive body language of the consultant helps win the confidence of the client for sure at a quicker pace.
- People Skills
We must understand that any profession deals with people. It is very important to work with any team member or a client in a professional and cordial manner. Consulting delves into solving business problems or needs but ultimately those needs or issues are an outcome of human mind. Hence understanding the client to a deeper level always helps. Focussing on developing long term relationships always help generate future business with the same client. You will be surprised to see the number of deals being won by companies having a long term and trustworthy relationship with a client, sometimes even ahead of a better solution by a competitor.
So folks, we have tried to walk you through some of the key skills required to not only survive but to be successful in this profession. I am sure there are many more skills required to be successful but to start off, this should be your checklist. 🙂