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Consulting skills

11 Core consulting skills to meet client expectations in 2024

Key Takeaways
  • Consulting is more than providing your expert advice. It involves understanding your client's pain points, challenges, and goals to present tailored solutions.
  • The top consulting skills are critical thinking, communication, interpersonal, analytical, and soft skills.
  • Good communication skills can bring more effect from any discussion when working with clients, stakeholders, and team members.
  • Poor management skills will lead to messy and chaotic projects and client dissatisfaction. All this will result in a loss of revenues and business opportunities.

Each year, management consultants in the US get more than $2 billion for their services. 

Much of this money pays for impractical data and poorly implemented recommendations. 

With intelligent clients these days, the situation will be different. 

So, you need to work toward effective consulting and learn the essential consulting skills to meet your client’s expectations.

If it gets ignored, there can be negative consequences for your consulting firm. In fact, a study reveals 80% of new consulting companies fold within their first two years of business.  

Considering the problem, we’ve mentioned these 11 core consulting skills that your client wants in you. 

This blog is helpful too for consulting firms planning to onboard new consultants.  

So, let’s get started! 

What makes you a good consultant?  

Possessing expertise and knowledge in your area is the primary criterion, but your skills make you stand out from others.  

The skills of a consultant make them the best or the one of their kind. This is because consulting is more than just providing advice based on their problems.

Rather it’s about taking them through a seamless experience while addressing their needs.

And your core consulting skills play a vital role in delivering this experience.

A good consultant has exceptional skills that assist in offering tailored solutions, so moving on with the most valuable consulting skills. 

11 Core consulting skills that help you stand out of the crowd 

Core consulting skills

1. Creative thinking skills   

Creative thinking is one of the vital consulting skills, as your job role is to present solutions that are unique and tailored for your clients.

It promotes brainstorming and diverse perspectives. Moreover, it involves going beyond conventional approaches.

Consultants must be creative enough to use their expertise and knowledge to develop the best solution.

Further, creative thinking skills allow them to think outside the box and generate ideas that drive positive results, like driving more sales or improving productivity.

Here, the aim is to provide a plan that gives their clients an edge over their competitors.

Creative thinking will help you convert opportunities into deals in a fast-paced business environment.

How to improve your creative thinking skills? 

You can develop and make your creative thinking ability better by following these tips:

  • Embrace mind wandering  

Letting your mind wander freely and letting go of preconceived notions is essential. Brilliant ideas emerge when you release the mental pressure and relax your mind.  

  • Seek a creative mentor  

Identify the person in your industry known for their creativity. Approach, connect, and follow them to learn how they cultivate the art of creative thinking.

  • Embrace diverse perspectives  

Having multiple perspectives allows you to expose yourself to different viewpoints. You must engage with diverse individuals and give yourself a break from like-minded people.

This encourages you to think differently and gain new perspectives and ultimately helps you to fuel your creative thinking.  

  • Consider optimal timing   

Some consultants find themselves coming up with the best solution early in the morning, some late at night, etc. So, observe the part of the day where you feel the most creative.

Pay attention to these patterns and adapt your schedule to embrace creativity.  

2. Strategic thinking  

Strategic thinking is one of the complex but essential skills for consultants. This skill requires a rare combination of conceptual knowledge and practical application.

You must see all the right process levels, from visionary concepts to the action plan and execution.

Your role here is to identify the areas of disconnect and fill the gap. This requires you to switch between worms and birds’ eye viewpoint.

It also helps to anticipate future challenges and take necessary actions.

Strategic thinking allows you to analyze information, learn patterns, and develop practical solutions.

Hence, observing and comprehending the bigger picture and considering the minor elements make up the overall strategy.

How to improve your strategic thinking skills? 

Strategic thinking comes naturally to some people. However, one can always develop and improve these by practicing. Follow the best tips mentioned below: 

  • Prioritize your task by always asking – Which task can leverage the most benefit now? And then go ahead to perform it.
  • Be aware of your biases. Question your thoughts and admit where you went wrong. This doesn’t make you less competent; you started thinking strategically.  
  • Improve your listening skills. Listening to clients, peers, and others allows you to think differently and learn new aspects.   
  • Hone your questioning skills. Strategic thinking requires you to question things and understand why it is proposed.   

3. Effective communication skills  

Effective communication as a consultant is more than just communicating concisely or persuasively.    

It includes discussion and questions that lead the project to the next stage. In simple terms, it involves solution-oriented communication.   

Good communication skills can bring more effect from any discussion with clients, stakeholders, and team members.  

You’ll require to tailor your conversations while interacting with different audiences. And effective communication always builds rapport with clients, manages their expectations, and builds trust.   

Being a good listener is the secret ingredient to improving your communication skills. Pro consultants ask more qualifying questions rather than presenting their ideas at the initial level.   

The below image will help you better understand the difference between Pro consultants and a Novice. 

Difference between Pro consultants and a Novice consultants

Not only verbal communication, but you must also be apt with your written communication skills.  

Tools like ChatGPT, WARMER.AI, Grammarly, and Hemmingway can assist you in creating sound emails and proposals that bring a positive response.

Also, suppose you’re communicating and consulting people on calls back and forth. In that case, there is a high chance of losing crucial information about the potential clients that might help you convert them later.  

To avoid this, you can take support of calling software that will allow you to take call notes, automatically record calls, and voicemail drop if you are not available. 

How to improve your communication skills? 

Here are some winning tips to improve your communication skills as a consultant: 

  • Focus on rehearsing your pitches and objection-handling strategies. Practicing will help you impressively deliver your words. 
  • Written communication is equally important so work upon to make it better. You can use pre-built email templates for a speedy workflow.
  • Communication is more than words, so you must focus on non-verbal gestures. Your body language and facial expressions also need equal attention when working on communication skills. 
  • Asking for honest feedback will help you learn the areas of improvement.  
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4. Observation skills 

Playing the role of an observer is a full-time job for a consultant. You can serve them efficiently by observing them, their business, and their products. 

Good observation skills mean you need to be able to look beyond components and identify their patterns, trends, and interdependencies. 

For instance, if you’re a sales consultant, you can look at their consulting sales pipeline for the past few months, reports of their rep’s activity, and sales goals reports for getting deeper insights into their sales activities.

Consultants lacking observation skills struggle to get consulting clients throughout their careers.

How to improve your observation skills? 

Here are some winning tips to improve your observation skills:  

  • Engage with various projects, businesses, and clients to gain diverse experiences and more exposure.   
  •  Be Attentive and practice active listening. Look out for details during interactions and meetings.   
  • Develop note-making habits. Capture essential information and use these notes as a valuable resource during project execution.  
  • Look beyond individual factors and embrace the bigger picture. Also, try to identify patterns and trends.
  • Seek feedback from your colleagues and mentors regarding your observation’s outcomes.  
  • Be open-minded and curious to learn about a client’s business and products.

5. Objectivity & independence skills 

Clients hire you to assess their current situation and problem from an unbiased and objective point of view. 

So, your responsibility is to explain the key problems truthfully and then develop fair solutions. 

Consultants with strong objectivity and independence skills don’t hesitate to tell their clients about any uncomfortable truth; rather, they responsibly handle the situation. 

Let’s understand this skill better with an example:

Suppose you’re a sales coach appointed by XYZ company, and they asked to figure out why their sales team is not meeting the sales targets.

Upon interaction and analyzing the past sales data, you discovered that most of their sales reps are avoiding cold calls and only focusing on warm calls. 

You interacted with the team and explained the importance of cold calls to achieve revenue targets for their business. 

Then, you objectively presented your findings to the manager, including all the loopholes and areas they overlooked. 

Then, you devised a new sales plan with a solid solution to their problems. 

That’s how you’ve demonstrated your objectivity and independence skills.

If you have ignored speaking the truth to the manager, then explaining your sales plan element would probably be a struggle.

The ideal way to show objectivity and independence skills is to become a source of truth for your clients. 

This isn’t easier as saying because often you have to face blunt replies or you might lose the client (worst scenario), but this will be a one-time pain. 

Remember, the sooner you finish with the painful truth, the sooner you can start implementing the solutions to improve. 

How to improve your objectivity and independence skills? 

Start today, and practice being more honest and direct with your clients. Here are some more tips for you below: 

  • Try to avoid emotional involvement, as it can make you biased. 
  • Stay calm, so if your clients come up with an idea and ask your opinion on that, tell them it is terrible if it is. Also, explain to them why. 
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions only if they sound hurtful or unpleasant. Ask them with clear thoughts that you can only help if you know what went wrong. 
  • Present smartly, and begin your feedback with a compliment, followed by criticism. Like, “I like your unique thought, but it won’t solve this problem.” 

6. Strong interpersonal skills  

Consulting business runs more on trust. Once you develop a set of liking and trust among your clients, this can help you win the deal. 

As a consultant, you interact with various audiences on a day-to-day basis. This requires you to plan and execute your next steps and conversations carefully.   

Working with clients becomes a smoother process if you’ve excellent interpersonal skills (also called people skills). 

You can gain valuable insights and diagnose business problems with strong interpersonal skills. Further, you can manage clients’ expectations, negotiate effectively, and resolve conflicts.   

Lack of which will leave a poor impression on you and affect your future business.   

How to improve your interpersonal skills?   

As a consultant, improving people skills is vital for your business growth. Here’s how you can do this: 

  • Try to communicate with a desired number of prospective clients daily and learn about their businesses and interests. 
  • Have an empathetic approach so that when you contact them, make it about themselves. 
  • Learn about their pain points and needs before pitching, as this leaves a good impact on your clients.
  • Demonstrate how you can add value and maintain relationships to gain customer loyalty.  

7. Problem-solving skills   

As a consultant, you are obliged to possess a solution-oriented mindset. This is because clients only consider consultants with expertise and problem-solving skills.

With strong problem-solving skills, you can draw thoughtful solutions after listening to and learning about their concerns and pain points.

Lack of this skill will create struggles in providing meaningful advice, leading to loss of business opportunities.   

With excellent problem-solving skills, consultants can tackle complex problems and find innovative solutions.   

It enables them to have a structured and strategic mindset for each challenge resulting in effective resolution.  

How to improve your problem-solving skills? 

As a consultant, you are supposed to solve the client’s problems effectively. This is how you can level up your problem-solving skills: 

  • You must change your mindset from “What” to “How.” This will help you focus on the structured problem-solving process.  
  • You need to be open-minded and look at different ideas and other approaches. This way, you can shift your mindset and be open to solving problems in multiple ways. 
  • Focus on the root cause of the problem and aim to solve the same. A good consultant doesn’t work on just symptoms but defines the problem.  
  • Focus on the process of solving the problem. Take a systematic approach and focus on “How.” 
  • Lastly, you should structure your presentation well, making it easy for your clients to understand.

8. Adaptability  

Consultants must work with various industries and clients with unique challenges and goals.   

For instance, a digital marketing consultant can deal with clients from multiple industries, say manufacturing, real estate finance, etc.   

So, the ability to adjust to changes is crucial to drive successful results for their clients.    

Consultants must quickly adapt to the changing circumstances and requirements of their clients.

This also means being flexible and open to new ideas and being able to pivot when required.    

Further, they must be able to shift priority, work collaboratively and be resilient to unforeseen obstacles. This enables them to work efficiently with different teams, cultures, and time zones.    

In this fast-paced world, clients seek consultants who can offer innovative solutions and are willing to adjust their strategies when expected.    

Being adaptable makes you an asset to your clients, leading to a successful career.

How to improve adaptability? 

Here’s how you can practice adaptability for your consulting business to deal with your varied persona clients:

  • Continuous learning will help you adjust to your environment. Adapting becomes easy when the environment seems familiar. 
  • Have a “Never say die” attitude. When you accept that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, you learn to find various solutions. This enhances your chance of adapting to any situation.  
  • Change is inevitable and embracing them will enhance your adaptability skills. Take time to reassess your views, and instead of feeling frustrated, find values.  
  • Don’t fear making mistakes, as it is a part of the process to improve it. But ensure not to repeat mistakes.

9. Analytical skills  

Your consulting practice greatly relies on analytics, so these skills are crucial for you to thrive in your career.    

As a consultant, you must deal with many clients and huge amounts of data and complex information.   

Strong analytical skills enable consultants to gather and analyze data to identify patterns and trends for making informed decisions.  

For instance, suppose a consulting firm provides sales strategy consulting services, and one of its consultants discovers that many prospective clients are dropping out from their consulting sales pipeline from a specific stage in the sales process.  

Now, analytical skills can help them evaluate the issue and enable them to understand the root cause of the droppings.  

Moreover, it helps to organize and present complex information concisely.

Analytics requires critical thinking and logical reasoning to interpret data and drive results.

Leveraging the data most effectively can save your business from losing opportunities to make money. Also, it helps you make informed decisions based on the data to optimize your strategies for great outcomes. 

How to improve your analytical skills? 

Analytical skills help you to drive calculative solutions. Hence, you must possess it, and as a consultant, here’s how you can improve it: 

  • When taking an analytical approach, you must collect efficient data. Having a good database sums up to improving your analytical skills. 
  • Another way to improve this skill is to avoid being biased. Asking the right questions without being biased will help you drive accurate solutions.  
  • Have a structured data collection method. You must agree on data collection methods and resources with the client. 
  • Further, you must develop a plan that can be made with both a practical and innovative approach.  
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10. Leadership skills  

Leadership skills are essential for consultants to establish themselves as trusted advisors and achieve long-term career success.   

Also, as leadership comes with meeting responsibility and taking corrective steps to produce the expected deliverables, you must have a strong sense of decision-making from leadership quality.

Further, setting clear expectations, strategizing project, and managing the execution part all comes to your daily consulting job role.

And to achieve this, you must have a strategic mindset and leadership qualities to make firm decisions.    

How to improve your leadership skills? 

Leadership as a skill is effective in helping you lead a project and team smartly. Here’s how you can develop and improve: 

  • A good leader is an empathetic listener. When you don’t rush at speaking and instead listen to your clients and peers, you understand their points of view and needs. 
  • A good leader is also known for taking strategic actions and addressing problems. As a consultant, you can stand out by looking at the big picture and analyzing solutions. 
  • Another way to improve is to have a collaborative approach. A great leader is always found working with his team.  
  • As a consulting leader, you must have honesty and integrity. Strong moral and social values have been seen as a fundamental quality in the history of leaders.

11. Project and time management skills 

Consultants need to work on multiple consulting projects simultaneously. And managing and tracking these projects is a skill you must have for a successful career.  

Project management includes managing time, scope, expectations, and deadlines throughout the project.   

It also involves planning, organizing, and executing the projects to deliver the best results.

This skill helps you to demonstrate the ability to coordinate with clients, team members, and stakeholders.   

Further, it helps you to manage resources efficiently, risk, and adapt to changing situations.  

Poor management skills will lead to messy and chaotic projects and client dissatisfaction. All this will result in a loss of revenues and business opportunities.   

Hence, mastering this core management consulting skill is vital for your successful career.

Moreover, you can enhance your work productivity with a smart sales automation tool that can help boost your sales efforts. 

How to improve project and time management skills? 

As a consultant, you must deal with multiple projects and clients simultaneously. And having sane time and project management consulting skills becomes crucially important.  

Here’s how you can improve these skills: 

  • To start with, set realistic goals. Don’t set goals that match expectations but not reality. Hence, you must focus on setting achievable goals.  
  • Learn to overestimate available time. If a project can be completed in a day or two, quote three days. By doing so, you avoid stress and last-moment changes and gain more time for researching and delivering the problem efficiently.  
  • Another thing is to determine the priority checklist. One important step is determining which task needs to be completed today to ensure that you don’t mess up any task.  
  • Lastly, research and use adequate tools to complete the project. This results in executing the task effectively and providing the expected results.  
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Essential consulting skills tailored to your field 

Apart from the core consulting skills, you should work on developing skills that give a boost to your niche. Explore the table mentioned below. 

Field-specific consulting skills  Skills required  Consultants that need these  
Strategy consulting skills     Critical and creative thinking skills  People skills Analytical skills Strong listening skills Questioning skills  Strategy consultants      
Management & operations consulting skills     Project management skills Risk management skills Problem-solving skills Data analysis skills Time-management skills Organizational skills  Operation consultants and management consultants     
HR consulting skills       Analytical skills People skills Mentoring and training skills Time management skills Emotional intelligence  Decision-making skills Presentation skills  Professionals working in the human resource department and HR consultants     
Marketing & sales consulting skills         Creative thinking skills  Research skills Problem-solving skills Effective communication skills Interpersonal skills Technical skills Organization skills Time management  Analytical skills  Marketing, sales, and business development consultants        

Hope this was helpful!

Wrap up: Skill up for your consulting success

To conclude, possessing the right consulting skills is equally important to having expertise in your niche.

Your valuable skills are the ones that differentiate you from other consultants. The top eleven consulting skills mentioned in the blog are crucial for every consultant looking for a successful career.

These skills assist you in delivering tailored solutions, winning more clients, building strong relationships, and offering a seamless experience to them.

So, go ahead and start adapting and practicing them for better results.

Frequently asked questions 

What skills are needed for a management consultant? 

Management consultants need good teamwork, time management, problem-solving and creative thinking, and analytical skills.

What are the 3 key attributes of making a successful consultant?

The three critical attributes of making a successful consultant are having creative thinking skills, good listening skills, and effective communication skills.

What is a hard skill for a business consultant?

Some of the hard skills for consultants are critical, leadership, and analytical thinking.

What are the key technical skills for consulting? 

Technical skills involve the ability to use smart tools like Excel, PowerPoint, and email marketing software and a good understanding of other important productivity platforms.

What are soft skills for consulting? 

Soft skills include solution-oriented skills, adaptability skills, and time & project management skills.

Dhanashree Pal

Dhanashree has been into writing since her teens. She believes writing is the best way to express and explain everything happening in this world. Reading and imagining are something she can do for hours. Enthusiastic about exploring new places and food. Young and hopeful of becoming better with every passing day.

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