How to be a ‘REAL’ Consultant

How to be a ‘REAL’ Consultant

Ever wondered how to clear a room at a networking event (apart from yelling ‘FIRE’)?  It’s easy; tell people you’re a consultant!  The title is almost as bad as parking inspector or politician.

‘Hang on, I’m a recruitment consultant’  or a ‘talent acquisition consultant’ I can hear some of you say.   Make no mistake, no one is fooled, you’re still trying to sell something and you’re only there to get leads.

Have you ever noticed how the term consultant can evoke a particularly bad response in business people?  That’s because for the last twenty years the marketplace has been awash with people who, armed with some specific expertise, have decided to set up on their own.  The allure of a better lifestyle, higher income and a buoyant economy in the nineties spawned a generation of available experts in almost any field.  Not all of them delivered the promise and many clients got burnt leading to the general level of cynicism that prevails….

There is no doubt that there are many excellent consultants out there and I am in no way referring to them (they know who they are).  What I am referring to is the tendency to add the word consultant to job titles and expecting those people to start displaying the behaviours that come with high-level skills, solid processes and demonstrated experience.

In recruitment the training piece around how to be an actual consultant is often missing.

Here are my top 10 tips to improve on your ‘consulting’ skills:

  1. Invest time to create deep knowledge in the industry in which you work.  If you’re not an expert what gives you the authority to consult?
  2. Take the interest off ‘making a sale’.  Become passionate about solving a problem
  3. Become an expert rapport builder. Seek out resources and training material that will help develop high-level communication skills
  4. Focus on collaborative decision-making.  Involve the decision-makers in the consulting process so they are fully engaged in the outcomes and the processes to execute the decisions
  5. Master the art of creating strategic questions and the science of listening. Nothing builds stronger credibility than making them the focus
  6. Demonstrate your empathy by providing a full summary of the conversation. This provides a compelling example of respect
  7. Learn the game of ‘hard to get’ by leaving any discussion of you, your organisation or your offering until almost the end of the conversation
  8. Discover the magic conversational balance ratio
  9. Emphasise their needs and avoid your solution in the first meeting. This is the essential basis of the second meeting and demonstrates considered thought
  10. Build powerful recommendations and irresistible next steps that your customer will find hard to resist


‘What rubbish!’ I hear some of you saying ‘take the interest off making a sale’, ‘don’t discuss ourselves’, ‘don’t provide solutions in the first meeting’, that will lead to pretty poor performance!

Here’s the irony: not only does this approach produce consistently better results, it differentiates the great consultant from the desperate pretender.


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