Getting The Best Out Of Your Consultant

Hiring a consultant requires a commitment to investing in a particular set of skills. Once you’ve been through the process of choosing a consultant, focus turns to managing the client-consultant relationship to make sure you get the best return from your investment.

An interesting article by Jake Fox of Whitecap Consulting on getting the best out of your chosen consultant.

Give a clear brief

The work a consultant delivers for you can only be as good as the brief they are given. In order to get the most value, you should clearly define the required task and prepare the terms of reference before you start. This document should cover the purpose of the assignment, the tasks to be carried out and the expected outcomes or objectives.

Negotiating a price

When negotiating a price with a consultant, don’t get fixated on costs – instead think about the outcomes and long term ROI. While any supplier will expect you to push for the best price, it is important to ensure it is also a fair price for the consultant’s time.

Develop mutual trust and honesty

For a client-consultant relationship to work, you need to know that the consultant will always be honest with you, even if the truth is not what you want to hear. In establishing a good relationship, mutual trust is developed through openness and honesty. Be upfront about challenges and past mistakes.

Clearly communicate with your consultant

Establish and maintain regular lines of communication. Set out at the start how and when you plan to communicate, and what types of communications will be required. Set out key dates and milestones as part of this process.

Treat a consultant as a member of the team

You should treat consultants as members of the team and confidants. By integrating them with the team, consultants will gain a more comprehensive overview of opportunities and challenges.

Don’t be afraid to challenge and be challenged

Make sure as a client you’re open-minded to suggestions, even if they don’t align with your current views. But similarly don’t be afraid to challenge a consultant and ask them to explain why they think a particular approach is better.

Make use of all of a consultant’s expertise

As well as knowledge and experience, consultants often also have access to data, systems and contacts that could broaden your options and horizons. Ask them about related experience they have that could help you in different ways.

Use a consultant’s time effectively

Carefully consider how their time can be best spent to utilise their knowledge, experience and skills efficiently and effectively. Use consultant time effectively so you can focus on the things that you do best.

Have clear guidelines for managing projects

Set out a clear plan and agree all deliverables from the outset. It can be difficult to accurately predict what will be involved from the outset. Break the project down into phases that show clear deliverables for each task/day, and for what cost. This also enables projects to be revaluated at key checkpoints.

Put simply, to get the best out of a consultant you need to develop a clear process and have some best practice guidelines for managing consultant relationships in your organization.