Consulting Skills

Consulting Skills

Explore the skills you need to excel as a consultant and business owner as you build your business along The Path to $2M™ in this episode of Profitable Joyful Consulting. 👇

What are the skills you need to get results for your clients? What are the skills you need to grow your business to $2M+? Explore exactly what you need to be able to do to build the profitable, joyful business of your dreams in this episode.

Key areas discussed in this episode

  • 0:00 Introduction to consulting skills
  • 0:36 The number one skill you need to be a consultant
  • 1:56 The skill that can make a huge difference in your ability to convert clients
  • 4:00 The skill that will help you weave your work into the overall business goals of your clients
  • 4:50 The skill that will help you grow in the world (and probably get more clients, too)
  • 6:24 The skill you need to have to start your business and continue building it over time
  • 9:14 The skill that will help you become a more effective communicator
  • 11:55 The skill that will help you get more visible and go further, faster
  • 13:35 The skill that will help you get big results for your clients
  • 16:03 Reflecting on your consulting growth journey

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Podcast Transcript

Hey and welcome, it is Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This is season 11 and this season’s topic is going to be Consulting Skills. I wanted to make that the topic of our first episode. Let’s talk about the skills that you need to excel as a consultant, to excel as a business owner, and to really get results and be effective and build your business along the Path to 2 Million.

What do you need to be able to do? So the first skill that I want to talk about is the one if anybody ever asks me, “What’s the number one thing you need to be a consultant?” I always say, “Resilience, you have to be resilient.”

You have to let the business kick you in the teeth over and over and over again and still show up tomorrow ready to go. That may sound like the harshest way to describe things, but at its most difficult being a consultant is basically being a business owner. It’s not really that hard, but it for sure is the kind of thing that you have to be resilient, you have to stick with it, and you have to push through fear, doubt, difficult clients, problems with contractors or team members, financial instability and insecurity. In the hardest of times there are going to be a lot of hard things to get through, and then you’ll be in the good times. And once you’re in the good times, it’s really easy to stick with things. The resilience that’s required to get through any of the challenges that your business is going to bring you makes you a better business owner and person, and it gives you tons of empathy for your clients.

So resilience is my go to quality and skill that I want you to cultivate within yourself. You may not have just shown up with it at the beginning, but for goodness sake, cultivate resilience within yourself. 

The second skill that I want to mention is Math. Let’s look at some hard skills. Let’s look at some specifics that you as a business owner need to be able to do.

My client Sherry just mentioned this the other day. She said she was in a sales call with a client and actually pulled out her calculator and started doing some calculations right there during that sales conversation. There’s nothing more important in those kinds of situations that you are comfortable with the math and the numbers. It’s just business math, this isn’t like trigonometry or anything. We’re not doing financial modeling or anything. You’re basically saying, “Okay so I heard you say it was this kind of a problem and then you have this many years or months or whatever.”

Having that kind of comfort zone with math and the numbers will help you to quantify in sales situations what your value is to the client, what the problem is costing your client and the amount of time that they’re wasting on something, the amount of money they could be making, the opportunity costs.

That basic fluency with the numbers can make a huge difference in your ability to convert clients and have good business conversations with them. A lot of times people say they don’t get a seat at the table to talk about the high level stuff. One of the reasons is that they can’t play the game from a numbers and a mathematical point of view. Don’t let that hold you back. Take a simple class in this. Or you can do what I did, which is get a mentor. In my case while I was at the Coca-Cola Company somebody just took me under his wing and showed me how to understand what a P&L sheet was. And that you should look at the bottom right. Then how to read the Wall Street Journal, learning what’s the information that’s coming in here? So building up that basic financial fluency so that you can have those conversations with your clients is going to really make a huge difference in your consulting business. 

The third area is Strategy. I want you to be able to speak strategy fluently with your clients. What does strategy mean? People get too intimidated around this. Strategy is basically saying, let’s talk (at a high level) about how to get you from where you are, to where you want to be. It’s the process of saying, if you want to get from here to where you want to be in three years, that’s going to take some big broad steps. It’s not 150 tiny steps. It’s about 3 to 5 big steps that are going to get us there. And that conversation is going to help you to talk with a higher level client, a higher level of person and decision maker at that client. It’s going to help you to weave your work into the overall business goals of the clients that you work with. 

The fourth skill is Networking, which is really just another word for connecting. The reason that I want you to be good at networking/connecting is because even if that’s not how you get clients, by going out and networking with people, it is how we grow in the world.

You network and you connect with different people, that’s how you’re going to meet your next hire. It’s how you’re going to meet the people who are going to connect you to so-and-so. Just knowing how to network and to be connected with people. Being a little charming in that process. Keeping up with those connections. There’s just good basic discipline.

Now tons of my clients come to me through networking. I never thought I was a good networker. I didn’t grow up with this skill. I didn’t know anybody who knew this skill. Networking is about going out, being visible, making yourself vulnerable and visible to others, and then taking a sincere interest in them.

Connect them to other people that you know and follow up with them. Those behaviors are core skills that are going to help you to grow your business, help you to have colleagues, help them to grow their businesses, help you to bring in a team. Just those basic skills are going to make you a better person, a better connected person, and that’s going to help your business. It’s a super basic skill, networking. I’ve outlined the components for you and the more comfortable that you get with that over time, the better off your business will be. 

Relatedly, the fifth skill is The Ability to Get Clients. I’m not saying you have to be amazing at marketing. I’m not saying you have to be amazing at sales. There’s a bunch of clients that I work with who don’t feel that they have those skills. However, do you know what skill they do have? They know how to get clients.

I once had a guy that I worked with and I couldn’t really help him very much. I realized he just didn’t have that kind of charm, or the ability to go out and have conversations, or the courage to get out of his comfort zone. For people like that, they’re going to struggle to build their business. I feel like, go ahead and get a job for somebody else who is a charismatic person and who is excited about getting out and about.

If you want to have a consulting business, even if you’re a small partnership and other people in the company are doing the client getting piece, the most valuable partners are always those who can actually bring in the clients– being the rainmaker. The other thing is this is not that hard, you can find this within yourself. So being able to get clients is a skill that you need to have to start your business and you’re going to have to continue building your business over time.

When someone comes to me, I don’t work with anybody who’s brand new. That’s what the first season of this podcast and all the rest of the episodes are for. The first season especially is for brand new consultants, if you want to go back and listen to that. But I don’t work with brand new consultants in general because the number one skill that they need to have is the ability to go get clients.

I can teach you a number of things, but basically what you have to have is the courage to get up, go out of the house, connect with people, talk to them about what you do, and then turn that into business. All of my clients who are thriving consultants did that piece without any assistance. They just went to people they used to work with. They just went outside the house. They went to the networking meeting, they went to the association meeting and they got three clients. Then we talked about, “How do we grow?”

So if you’re good at getting clients already, Yay! If you’re not, but you have gotten clients before, then this is the skill that I want you to lean into. The ability to get clients should become internalized and intuitive after a while and it might not be in the beginning.

I never looked for a job in my entire life. And so looking for clients, which is a lot like looking for a job, came incredibly unnaturally to me. But after a while I noticed that people would make a beeline towards me and be like, “You have something going on that I need to hear about.” And I would say, “Well here’s what I do.” And they would be, “That’s it!” So you can hear that after a while it’s going to become a skill that’s so internalized. You’re not actually even doing anything, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting clients. That’s the thing that I want you to work on developing. 

The sixth skill is Writing. It’s important to have writing skills. If this is something that does not come naturally to you, it’s really worth studying with someone who teaches the skill of creative writing in general, but also building a writing habit, and really looking at people who can teach you to do this so that it becomes more natural for you.

If you’re already a good writer, or if you’re a streaky writer like a lot of clients, I have begun to invest in that writing habit so that you’re doing your writing consistently. You’re going to see that it’s really critical to write your thoughts. I’ve done other episodes about this. And very recently, Andrew Huberman Tweeted about the importance of reading actual words on a page and not just listening and writing, not just bullet points, but actually writing out prose. He said, “It’s really important for your brain and then it helps you to be more articulate.” So I was a little upset about people who are neurodivergent and maybe they don’t read because of dyslexia and other reading disabilities, and other people who process things differently.

However what I do think is important is the skill of writing. If that is something that you can do, it will help you to build your business. You’re going to have to write a lot of things in your work. I feel like as a consultant, I can imagine that there are tons and tons of people who say, “I was not told that there would be so much writing.” To be a consultant, you’ll have to write everything from email communications to proposals to your understanding of what a client has said to you. Listening for comprehension and writing that up all the way down to you needing to write your thoughts. You might write a book, you might have to write white papers. There’s so much writing that can be done. Yes, you can outsource that to someone on your team. The better skilled you are at writing, the more effective a communicator you will be. So lean into that as a habit.

A resource that I really love is Ann Handley’s book on writing that’s specifically about content and copywriting. But in general, I think the best way to get better at writing is to do it. Require yourself to do a little bit of writing every single day. I do think that Andrew Huberman’s point about not just bullets, but actually writing out prose, well-constructed prose that might be published, or read by other people is really the key. 

The seventh one is, and you’re not going to be too surprised to hear me say this, Video. Video is not going away. It’s not getting less important and less strategic. What’s really, really critical is the fact that now so many more of our meetings are Zoom meetings. Even if you’re not making a video presentation, talking to a camera like I’m doing right now, you are very often sitting in a Zoom meeting where someone is looking at you and you are communicating.

Being able to express yourself on camera, to be able to look into that camera and make your points is as critical as it’s ever been, it’s just not going away. The ability to concisely create content in the form of video that you can use to grow your business, that you can use to communicate with your clients, that is absolutely essential. I think as a consultant, it’s no longer possible to simply write everything and never appear on camera. You can go further, faster, the more comfortable you are with video.

Short form video is getting ever more popular, but building up your resilience about getting on camera and presenting your services, communicating everything that you can do on camera, that’s going to make you more effective. It’s also going to create opportunities for you to be more visible through speaking, having that video appear all over social media. As I said, like sending messages to your clients that are in a video form so that you can communicate what you need to, that’s going to be ever, ever more important as we go. 

So I’m down to the last skill, I could go on and on with skills that are important to have. I’ve really tried to strategically reduce this down to absolutely the essentials. The eighth one is the word Influence. It could be influencing in a social media context. But what I’m specifically talking about here is your ability to help others to change their behavior. So when we get results with our clients, we usually get them through our clients. Usually it’s not for them unless you’re doing some sort of “done for you” service. But a lot of times we’re influencing them to make changes in their behavior, their business, in their activities so that they can get the results that they’re seeking. So we’re able to influence, to help, to shape, and through our communication, we shape those things so that they change their behavior. That is a really specific skill.

I didn’t really know that I was signing up for it when I started my business so many years ago because I would tend to do things for my clients. I would write a brand plan, I would write that marketing plan, I would help them kind of get their ideas out of themselves and get them onto paper, but I was usually doing the thing for them. Then as my business went on, it was much more about me working with clients in order to help them to achieve change. So changing their mindset, helping them to adopt new habits, those kinds of things.

More and more that is the skill that we need to have. Working with a manager to help them to learn to give feedback. Working with people to help them to track their activities. All of those things that we do where we’re actually influencing someone so that they change their behavior. That ability, that skill is rare and it’s critical. So I want you to think about the ways in which that skill is coming into play in your work. Even if you do everything for your clients, I think you’ll find that there’s a ton of behavior change that you are needing to shape, and to affect as you’re working with them. 

So those are the skills that I identified as critical consulting skills. They’re going to help you as a business owner to be better as a consultant, and they’re going to help you get better results in your business to be able to make the impact that I know you can make. 

As you reflect on your journey as a consultant, I want you to think about, “What skills that I did not know I was going to need that I’ve had to develop? What are the skills that you’ve thought, “Oh I thought I was going to use that every day, but it really doesn’t come up that much?” And then what are the skills that you feel like, “Oh man, I gotta really work on this one because I’ve got to get better at this and it’s going to help me to be a better consultant?” I would love to hear about any of those. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your consulting skills and your consulting business, then I encourage you to make an appointment to speak with me. You can do that at the contact page of my website. SamanthaHartley.com. And with that, I’m wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting Business.

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