The Art of Consulting — 10 chief attributes that make for an effective consultant

By Gary Markell

consultingFor the past several years and more I have been searching, and recruiting consultants for Global Business Services, and I have been very impressed with what it takes to be a skillful consultant within the ever-changing, ever-evolving world of Information Technology and Services.  Whether it be Sales, Technical or Functional, those of you who have earned the distinction to be a “Consultant” deserve much praise and even admiration.  For you have become a multi-faceted diamond.

Each year there are multiple billions of dollars spent by companies for consulting services. Entering the world of consulting can be exciting and rewarding.  Frankly, it is also one of the toughest jobs to do well on the planet.  Being an effectual consultant takes a refined blend of many attributes.

Here are 10 chief attributes that make for an effective consultant.

  • Communication skills – First of all, good communication comes from having good listening skills. Good consultants think positive about people, they develop a genuine interest in the people they encounter and they listen carefully to what is said. There is always a commitment to convey in such a way as can be understood clearly.  Remember, “It is not what you say that counts, It is what they hear that counts.”  Considering the level of technical understanding that the recipient has, is crucial to communication success.
  • Become Astute at Investigation – Understanding the client and their requirements is truly a work in progress which requires strategically digging in to get the whole story and the full understanding of what really exists. Ask questions until you comprehend completely what the wants, needs, the current pain points, and what the desired end results need to be. Consultants will always do a better job as they become astute at investigating.
  • knowledgeKnowledge & Experience – How often do you see requests for “Entry-level” Consultants.. That is essentially an oxymoron. Pertinent knowledge for the project is of course paramount to success. Whether you are a consulting Application Developer, an Account Executive, or a Senior Managing Consulting Partner, or whatever your particular title, you need to have the correct experience and knowledge needed to fulfill your role professionally.
  • Credibility – Anyone can be titled a consultant, but having the credibility to back it up is of significant importance. Education, Certifications, proven experience, references, your brand, etc, adds to your professional credibility.
  • Reliability and Integrity – Provide “No-nonsense” commitments. Set reachable goals. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you will. An effective Consultant knows what the limitations are regarding products and services and will never promise to offer anything that they are unable to provide.  They will communicate openly and confirm clearly with much less chance for misunderstandings.
  • Attention to detail and thoroughness – Measure Twice, Cut Once. An effective consultant is going to have the attitude to Drive for Excellence. They think things through before they act. Doing this will always help you develop and deliver better solutions for your client. Keep your work including any presentation documents and reports professional regarding accuracy and appearance.
  • Specialize – This is the age of specialization. Knowledge and technology are doubling every seven years or so.  Expand your knowledge yes, but become a specialist in at least one area.  This will add merit to your profile and bring value to your client and your company.
  • Always be Resourceful – Let’s face it, you might have learned a lot, but you do not know everything. People are impressed by consultants who are knowledgeable, but they are even more apt to place confidence in those who are also able to find meaningful answers outside their own personal experience. A valid consultant is going to be continuously building a network of resources and relationships.
  • Leadership Prowess – You may or may not have any direct reports in your role, but you certainly need to develop some excellent leadership and collaborative skills. The ability to influence and motivate people from a leadership capacity is vital. In any case, including ancillary relationships such as business partner contacts, vendors and team members, you will need to be effective in getting people behind you and getting people to buy-in to ideas, principles and projects.
  • Project Management skills – More than often, Project Management skills are required for a consultant. The organizational skills, time management skills, boardroom presentation skills, use of methodologies, etc, come into play. I recommend getting PMP certified. It may not be required in your job description, it can however be a real educational resource and can also show credibility.

High 5’s and kudos to all you consultants!


Gary L. Markell works with IBM North American Talent Search Team. He very much enjoy writing and have over 22 years in recruiting, holding many roles. Gary has a passion for people and want to make a difference in the lives of current IBMers as well as attract qualified contacts to consider IBM for their next adventure.

Find other articles by Gary Merkell here

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3 thoughts

  1. Useful content and Clear explanation, Thanks for sharing your views in this article. Great job.

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