When Stephen M.R. Covey wrote, "Trust is equal parts character and competence," he meant that leaders could end up with less than optimal results if they lacked one or both of those parts.
Sustaining trust is hugely important in business relationships, especially when leaders turn to consultants for help in navigating tricky waters or avoiding failure.
So whether you’re a seasoned consultant, someone just starting out or a manager wondering how to hire outside expertise, here are five behaviors that successful consultants demonstrate when embarking on a trusted and fruitful consulting engagement.
1. Listen first.
If someone is asking for advice, he or she has a business problem to solve. Your first strategy to instill confidence that you can tackle the job should be to listen and pay close attention.
Be sure to do some homework about the business and the person involved so when the company representative speaks, it’s not all brand-new info. Have questions prepared and really focus on the responses supplied so as tp assimilate them and be prepared to provide a thorough and crisp proposal for helping to resolve the issue.
2. Know your value.
Some potential clients might try to squeeze you on the initial assignment, claiming this first project can lead to more fruitful gigs down the line. While it might be appropriate in some cases to take on the assignment regardless, generally you’ll feel better about yourself over the long run if you stick to your guns and don't allow yourself to lower your price.
If you know your niche and feel your charges are appropriate, have the integrity to politely turn down a counter offer. Or simply reduce the scope of your work to maintain the level of profitability you've set for yourself.
3. It’s OK to say no.
Saying yes to anything and everything is the default response of many consultants and small business owners. This is understandable as many have that niggling worry that work might dry up or that it's important to say yes to please clients and appear positive and willing.
I would argue for saying no to “scope creep,” when additional deliverables are added to a project but the fee remains the same. Turning down a request for performing a service that’s outside your professional capabilities will earn you respect. If you’re doing a great job and clients know where they stand, they’ll feel your solid and honest approach is more trustworthy and professional.
4. Offer creative solutions.
Say a consulting firm (such as mine) offers services to help businesses with their social media strategy, digital PR and personal branding but receives random requests for SEO advice or help in setting up and managing a Facebook page.
Instead of just dismissing such inquiries, embrace the person's business problem and offer a partial solution based on how your consulting firm can help. Still have a conversation and offer some services; they might not be a complete answer but can work as part of a more sophisticated and integrated approach.
5. Exude true confidence.
Clients don't expect you to know everything. Don’t be the type of person who exudes an overbearing, blustering, too-good-to-be-true sense of self. To gain trust and build an effective working relationship with a client, the customer must have a certain level of confidence in what you’re doing.
Exude a level of self-assurance that’s punctuated with authenticity. You’ll earn more trust and kudos if you’re honest about your limits and don’t end up overpromising and under delivering.
What behaviors have you seen that help create successful consulting rapport?
Related: 5 Thoughts That Crush Success