Top 10 consulting tips

I’ve aggregated some observations I’ve made from working with a number of consultants and doing some consulting myself. These are focused on corporate management consulting, but are mostly applicable to any type of consulting.

  1. Ideas are products. They exist in a competitive marketplace. They come with trade-offs. They’re never perfect. And, like all products, they require selling.
  2. When you are presenting, remember that everyone in the room is also a human being. They all have motivations, emotions and insecurities. They aren’t robots. They make emotional decisions like everyone else.
  3. In business, nobody cares about your journey. They don’t care about how much work you did. Selling ideas requires relating to your audience. The best salespeople take their prospects on their prospect’s own deeply personal emotional journey.
  4. In large companies, everyone has an agenda, often buried under the surface. It’s worth meeting each the key stakeholders to figure out their agenda.
  5. When you start a project, learn everything you can. Talk to everyone who might have insights. Generally, the closer a person is to customers or to the work being done (or the customers themselves), the more likely they are to have real insights. Use these insights to determine the most important questions to answer. It usually takes many years separated from customers or actual work being done to become an executive.
  6. The hardest and most important part of consulting projects is defining what question(s) to answer. It’s easy to get off-track. It’s easy to answer the wrong question(s) or define the scope incorrectly. The best consultants are defined by their tenacity around answering the right questions.
  7. Once you have the right questions, develop hypotheses about the answers to the questions. The hard part of developing good hypotheses is that they have to be disprovable. You have to expose yourself to the possibility of being wrong. The secret to success is learning (from being wrong) and adapting.
  8. Key stakeholders often learn (and are sold) in different ways. It’s worth the investment to learn how the stakeholders learn (and buy) and present accordingly. 1:1 conversations are usually the best way to do this.
  9. Time invested in reducing complexity, reducing the number of slides, synthesizing information, making the story more compelling is the best time investment you can make. It far surpasses time spent on more surveys, more interviews, more analyst reports and more data.
  10. Remember that part (often most important part) of defining what you’re proposing is defining explicitly what you’re NOT proposing.



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