When bringing in a consultant, the common expectation is that they will come in and solve the problem the client has identified. This is the reason people pay the higher rates for the consultant – why else would they bring someone in from the outside?
However, many times the old adage “the customer is always right” does not apply. It’s easy for clients to get absorbed in their situation and have a skewed view of what the problems and solutions are.
Technical skills will only get you so far in these situations.
It is for this reason that consultants must not only have technical skills but also great people skills. They need to be able to take the proverbial step back and look at the client’s situation from the big picture perspective. A great consultant is also someone who also knows how to read and deal with people, someone who can read situations develop alternatives and negotiate with their clients. Most importantly they must feel comfortable saying NO. Saying no to someone who is paying you for a service is easier said than done. But if you are to survive as a consultant it is necessary.
Saying no and potentially losing a client is a scary proposition, but you must do it to keep your status as a trusted advisor with your client. The next time you are signing up for another technical training class ask yourself when was the last time you’ve had soft skills training, if it’s been a while perhaps its time for a refresher.