Foundational Principles for Consultants: Part 1


By Katlyn Wilbanks

Katlyn Wilbanks joined Fuel in October 2017. Previously, she worked with Ideen, LLC, which was owned by Fuel's CMO, Dr. Lisa Witzig. Katlyn specializes in strategic planning and communications.

I have three years of consulting experience — I'm a newbie compared to most of my counterparts at Fuel who are contributing to this series. Nevertheless, I have learned several important lessons so far, and I’m sharing some with you here. This is Part 1 of 2, so stay tuned for the next installment.

Begin on the inside.

Clients often come to consultants and talk about only customer-facing problems. It's easy to immediately focus on external issues because problems related to customers are where the client feels the most pain. However, don't fall into the trap of prioritizing only the external issues without considering internal issues that might be the root cause.

Example: A client asks for help because they are struggling to explain their products and services, and even their top clients don't know the other services offered. After private interviews with employees throughout the company, it becomes clear that even employees don't know the company's products and services. It also becomes clear that upper management can't agree on which products and services to focus on to meet the company's goals... because they haven't taken time to decide on goals.

Focus on a few of the best things rather than too many good things.

After clients define clear goals and what success looks like for their companies, help them pick two or three things to focus on that will have the most impact. It's easy to get distracted, because there are plenty of things a company can do that are good things to meet its goals — but it is better to focus on the best things and make sure all involved know them.

Example: Management wants to use social media to educate customers about new products and services. The social media manager decides that improving web traffic, increasing brand revenue, strengthening the brand, sharing important news, and serving as a thought leader are all important, too. The result: a hodge-podge of good content, but the social media manager spends so much time on all the other goals that products and services aren't emphasized and the main goal is not met.

Don't just focus on things done poorly, or you could miss opportunities.

Even if consultants are hired to “fix” a certain problem, it is important for the consultants to notice what is going well and share that with their clients.

Example: A client's customers wish the company offered more solutions. However, the customers all rave about how great the company is at the services it does provide. Ignoring this could mean the consultants fail to realize how the client can utilize the strong relationship with customers as an opportunity to learn from them and develop products and services to meet their specific needs.

This post is part of a series of consulting tips brought to you by Fuel’s own consultants. Want more? Peruse our blog, and follow us on Twitter.

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