Whether you are fledgling start up or an established enterprise, sourcing new contracts has to be high on your priority list in order for you to get ahead in the consulting industry. Competition is fierce and with most clients interviewing in excess of five consultants to drive their company forward, it is vital that you stand out from the crowded marketplace.
To give yourself the very best chance of securing contract after contract you need to do your homework. All clients will require an interview and a comprehensive case study, if not a list of your previous clientele and extensive portfolio to boot, so here are some insider tips on how to approach a client interview.
The first mistake many management consultants make is believing their own hype. Yes, you may have learned your trade and gained extensive consulting experience, but don’t rest on your laurels. You are only as good as your current client, and in order to get them ahead of their game you need to make sure that you are too. Savvy consultants should have a comprehensive reading list to dip in and out of, including management consultancy books like Good to Great and Built to Last by Jim Collins, or Case in Point by Marc Consentino to keep you inspired and educated for the next challenge.
You need to know your client’s business and industry inside out to have a chance of becoming a successful candidate. Business owners are busy people, that is why they need you, so you need to be confident and competent in your client’s sector so that they can put their confidence in you. CEO’s will expect a comprehensive case study demonstrating a thorough understanding of the industry while outlining the strategies you would implement to increase their client retention and profit margins. Research as many different consulting cases as you can, particularly those that in the same or similar sector and situation to your client. There is a wealth of resource to be found online in websites such as www.caseinterview.com or www.consultingcase101.com are good examples to check out.
Practice makes perfect
The best way to prepare for a consultancy interview is to practice with a friend, ideally a fellow consultant who can really challenge your points and help you to refine your case study presentation. They will help you to identify key areas that you may have missed such as failing to mention strategies for competitors in the field or glossing over current challenges within the client’s team. Don’t be afraid to pose questions during the interview but ensure that they do not dominate your responses, and keep all answers short and concise.
It’s not what you know but who you know
Preparing to approach a client interview is the perfect time to tap into your consulting network. Set up meetings with other management consultants to hear first-hand stories of similar cases so that you are genned up ready to pitch. This demonstrates to your client your ability to collaborate while boosting your presence in the consulting sector with colleagues who may keep you in mind for future contracts.
A good case study is essential in the selection process, however business owners are human after all, and so some of the decision will come down to your likeability. Personality clashes in the workplace are sometimes unavoidable, so it is vital that you are true to who you and how you operate for the client to make an informed decision. Ensure that you are positive, energetic and motivated; the client is looking to you to be the driving force behind their company, so smile, speak clearly and confidently and use positive body language. Be open to feedback, demonstrating that you have the ability to work alongside the client and his/her team to achieve real results, but most importantly, be yourself.