7 consulting skills and competencies needed to succeed in 2022 (2022)

The world of consulting is exceptionally broad. Today’s companies rely on consultants in nearly every industry, from healthcare to agriculture. While this can be daunting for those wondering how to become a management consultant or grow a consulting business, there are certain key skills all good consultants share.

In this blog, we’ll highlight seven must-have consulting skills in 2022. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply brushing up on the fundamentals, these tips can go a long way.

Let’s begin.

1. Enjoy problem solving.

The goal of a consulting project isn’t to maintain the status quo. If you’re brought on by a client, you’re there to solve a problem—or prevent a future one.

Perhaps the number one consulting skill, then, is critical thinking. Your client will expect you to tackle complex problems plaguing their business. It’s possible they’ve started the pre-work and have a direction in mind. Or, they may rely on you to jumpstart the discussion.

Regardless, your job as a consultant is to propose solutions to these critical issues. To develop these proposals, you’ll need to gather data. Learn the ins and outs of the client organization, read up on market trends, research competitors, and perform data analyses where necessary.

Through it all, keep a level head. Don’t get so bogged down in the finer details that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Have a vision, make sure it’s well-researched, and stick to it.

2. Make the most of presentations.

Of course, it’s not enough to have a solid proposal. You’ll also need to prepare and share your findings with your client. To ensure your ideas hold up under scrutiny, you’ll want to invest in your presentation skills.

When building a presentation deck, make sure each slide adheres to a unified style. Use fonts and colors that fit the tone of the meeting. Even include your firm’s logo and branding, where appropriate. Incorporate screenshots from consulting software when appropriate.

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Also keep your audience in mind. If your project team has multiple stakeholders, look for ways to keep these stakeholders engaged. Anticipate their feedback, and prepare answers that will help you earn their support.

When it comes time to present, articulate your ideas with clarity and precision. Keep your points detailed yet targeted. Pay attention to your posture, tone, and cadence. Through it all, keep in mind the story you’re telling and the data that backs it up.

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3. Employ stellar communication skills.

Once you start implementing your proposals, you’ll want to document your actions and keep stakeholders in the loop. This starts with a strong communication strategy.

Plan a series of updates you’ll relay to the team. The frequency may vary based on the client’s needs. But whatever cadence you decide on, make sure it’s timely and consistent. The more in touch you are with your stakeholders, the easier it is to receive and act on critical feedback.

Also make sure you’re being candid with these updates. It’s tempting to limit what you share so as not to overwhelm your client. But in doing so, you risk understating an issue that could become a major blocker down the line. When in doubt, err on the side of transparency and honesty.

4. Be flexible.

When working on a consulting project, you’ll want to be flexible. You may agree on a timeline weeks or months in advance, thinking it’s set in stone. But things happen; your client’s needs change, so you’ll want to be prepared.

There are many reasons a project may change course. Your client may want to reassess the scope of the project or alter its focus. A team member may hit a roadblock, halting their workstream and slowing others. A project may even speed up, given the right circumstances.

Keep these scenarios in mind for any consulting job. It can be difficult to anticipate tight deadlines or long hours. But by going into engagements expecting the unexpected, you put yourself in the right headspace. More importantly, you convey to your client that you’re a team player.

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5. Put your client first.

Having a team mentality is important when it comes to client relationships. You may have a preferred way of leading or communicating. But if you put these needs above your client’s, you’re doing them a disservice.

When weighing a decision, always think in terms of client benefit. Which choice will leave my client better off? Develop a keen understanding of your client’s needs. As mentioned before, these may change over time, so make sure you check in frequently.

Note that the best decision for a client isn’t always the decision they would make. Of course, you’ll want to keep clients happy whenever possible. But an experienced consultant knows when to trust the data—even if the results aren’t popular.

By having healthy conflict, you challenge your client to consider new lines of thinking. Done correctly, you ensure they make calculated decisions with their best interests in mind.

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6. Demonstrate clear value.

When guiding your client through business problems, make sure to demonstrate the value of your services. Find a way to quantify the results of each decision made—and celebrate major wins.

You could have all the charisma in the world. You could also be on good terms with the project stakeholders. But if you can’t convey how your actions have or will impact the bottom line, that charm won’t matter.

When looking to demonstrate value, data will be your best friend. Together with your client, agree on the key performance indicators that’ll determine success or failure for the project. From there, see that you have the right data collection tools to measure these KPIs.

At various project checkpoints, examine the data. If you’ve been delivering value to your client, you’ll be able to show this through these established KPIs. Remember to present these figures with confidence, clarity, and purpose.

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7. Be a change management expert.

One of the most complicated challenges you’ll tackle as a consultant is change management. From M&As to rightsizing and restructuring, organizations are constantly evolving. These changes often come quickly and with little warning to employees.

During these stressful scenarios, you’ll serve as a crucial liaison between your client and their workforce. It’ll be up to you to help managers and teams process, communicate, and adapt to change. You’ll also need to ensure these shakeups don’t disrupt employee engagement or the company culture.

As companies look to evolve their workplaces, be an expert your clients can lean on. Our hybrid work and employee retention guides give you actionable insights you can bring back to your clients. Empower them to make the right decisions for their people—and flip The Great Resignation into The Great Retention.

Make consulting work easier with these tips.

Consulting jobs can be daunting even for established firms. We hope these tips help you better prepare for future engagements—so you can advise your clients with confidence.

How PI can help

You may be focused on your clients’ needs right now, but even the best consultants take time to invest in themselves. Whether you’re looking to start your own business or take your practice to the next level, it helps to have the right support.

PI’s free partner program is designed to help you take that next step. Get trained in a powerful consulting framework—talent optimization—and add a new level of value and data to your engagements.

7 consulting skills and competencies needed to succeed in 2022 (3)

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FREE: Join the PI partner program and get all-access to our talent optimization platform, workshops, and expert trainings.

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7 consulting skills and competencies needed to succeed in 2022 (5)

FAQs

What are the key skills for a successful consultant? ›

8 examples of key consulting skills
  • Creative thinking.
  • Thinking conceptually and practically.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Communicating clearly and empathetically.
  • Collaboration with all job levels.
  • Organization and time management.
  • Curiosity.
  • Credibility.

What are 3 characteristics a consultant should have to be successful? ›

8 CHARACTERISTICS OF GREAT CONSULTANTS
  • Great consultants are flexible. Great consultants adapt to new projects, work cultures and colleagues easily. ...
  • Great consultants have great discipline. Great consultants work hard and they work smart. ...
  • Great consultants are confident.
20 Feb 2020

What makes a great consultant here are 10 attributes? ›

However, no matter what type of consulting area a person would like to enter or what firm they would want to work for, there are several key characteristics that every successful consultant should possess: Having self-confidence, be a good listener, be a team player, easily cultivate and gain client trust, exhibit ...

How do I succeed as a management consultant? ›

Strong ambition for success: maintaining work consistency and achieve the highest results in difficult tasks. Excellent content skills: problem structuring, data gathering and analysis, presentation. Excellent people skills: leading teammates, working with support staff, influencing clients.

Why are consulting skills important? ›

Management consultants help organizations solve problems, improve business performance, create value and maximize growth. They identify solutions for business troubles and make suggestions for changes to implement.

What do clients look for in a consultant? ›

Consultants expertise

Analytical skills. Specialist knowledge of the latest research findings. Previous experience of similar projects and in similar industries. Knowledge of the industry.

What are hard skills and soft skills? ›

Soft skills are those skills that come naturally and uniquely to everyone. Soft skills include leadership, effective communication, teamwork, time management, motivation and adaptability. On the other hand, hard skills are those that are gained through hands-on experience, training, or education.

How can a consultant stand out? ›

7 Ways to Stand Out as an Independent Consultant
  1. Focus on a specialization. ...
  2. Build your image. ...
  3. Network effectively. ...
  4. Always be prepared. ...
  5. Stay up to date. ...
  6. Keep it professional. ...
  7. Use Lyghtning.
11 May 2017

Who are the big 4 and the Big 3 in the consulting industry? ›

Who are the CEOs of the Top 3 (McKinsey, Bain, BCG), and Big 4 (EY, KPMG, PwC, Deloitte) consulting firms?

What are the characteristics of a consultant? ›

10 characteristics of a skilled consultant
  • YOU ARE A STRONG COMMUNICATOR. ...
  • YOU ARE A GOOD LISTENER. ...
  • YOUR FRIENDS COMPLIMENT YOU ON YOUR PEOPLE SKILLS. ...
  • YOU ARE NOT AFRAID TO WORK HARD. ...
  • YOU ARE CUSTOMER-FOCUSED. ...
  • YOU ARE CURIOUS AND LIKE TO LEARN NEW THINGS. ...
  • YOUR INTUITION IS SECOND TO NONE.

What qualities are required by a management consultant? ›

You'll need:
  • excellent verbal communication skills.
  • business management skills.
  • analytical thinking skills.
  • to be flexible and open to change.
  • the ability to use your initiative.
  • customer service skills.
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions.
  • the ability to work well with others.

How do I talk like a consultant? ›

Top down communication explained (management consulting skills)

How do I succeed in McKinsey? ›

A McKinsey grad offers eight pointers for success at work
  1. Start with the hard stuff in the morning. ...
  2. Have a 30-second answer to everything. ...
  3. Frontload your projects. ...
  4. Smile when under stress. ...
  5. Always imagine the worst-case scenario. ...
  6. Ask "What would Marvin do?" ...
  7. Seek energy boosters. ...
  8. Ask the deeper questions.

What is the difference between management consulting and business consulting? ›

Although some people use the terms 'business consulting' and 'management consulting' interchangeably, it tends to be the case that business consulting relates to business processes (which might include production, HR, finance or buildings maintenance), whereas management consulting will focus on people and the less ...

How do you survive management consulting? ›

11 Tips that will help you survive management consulting projects
  1. Befriend the customer / be likable. ...
  2. Always be 2-3 steps ahead of the customer and your boss. ...
  3. Prepare ahead of time. ...
  4. Outsource whatever you can. ...
  5. Be efficient. ...
  6. Use any opportunity to sleep. ...
  7. Create a sense of urgency for the team and the customer.
11 Aug 2018

What are the soft skills? ›

Soft skills can also be thought of as people skills. These can include good communication and interpersonal skills, leadership, problem solving, your work ethic, time management, and teamwork. These are characteristics that can be carried over to any position.

What are advisory skills? ›

What skills does a Careers Advisor need?
  • Strong communication, observational and listening skills.
  • The ability to motivate and build a rapport with people.
  • A flexible and adaptable approach to work.
  • An empathetic, non-judgmental and ethical approach.
  • The ability to work autonomously and manage your own caseload.

How do you measure consulting performance? ›

Below is a list of six KPIs that consulting firms can use to measure their success and the success of their clients:
  1. Leads generated. ...
  2. Number of current clients. ...
  3. Rate of utilization. ...
  4. Average hourly fee. ...
  5. Repeat business rate. ...
  6. Customer satisfaction. ...
  7. Align the goals for your team. ...
  8. Assess the state of your organization.
29 Sept 2021

What do businesses want from consultants? ›

Consultants can provide expertise and an objective eye to help guide a business, with different consultants specializing in various industries and areas, including strategy and management, operations, human resources, finances, funding opportunities, IT, and sales and marketing.

What are the stages of the consulting process? ›

5 Phases of Consulting
  • Entry and Contracting. This first phase deals with the initial contact with the client about the project. ...
  • Data Collection and Diagnosis. It's important that consultants come up with their own sense of the problem. ...
  • Feedback and the Decision to Act. ...
  • Implementation. ...
  • Extension, Recycle, or Termination.

What are essential skills? ›

What is an Essential Skill? An essential skill is a necessary developed ability or capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained efforts to smoothly and adaptively carryout complex activities or job functions involving ideas, things, and/or people.

What are technical skills? ›

Technical skills are the specialized knowledge and expertise required to perform specific tasks and use specific tools and programs in real world situations. Diverse technical skills are required in just about every field and industry, from IT and business administration to health care and education.

Who are the big 4 and the Big 3 in the consulting industry? ›

Who are the CEOs of the Top 3 (McKinsey, Bain, BCG), and Big 4 (EY, KPMG, PwC, Deloitte) consulting firms?

What do you look for in a consultant? ›

When selecting a consultant, follow these five simple, but important, guidelines:
  • Unimpeachable character. First and foremost, an effective consultant must be a person of the highest character. ...
  • Solid experience. ...
  • Creative problem-solving skills. ...
  • Outstanding communication skills. ...
  • Excellent interpersonal skills.
4 Nov 2014

What makes a good consultant McKinsey? ›

McKinsey, often the most formulaic of the firms, clearly states on their own site that they're looking for these four skill sets: leadership, entrepreneurial drive, personal impact, problem solving. McKinsey specifically assesses these skill set via the McKinsey personal experience interview (PEI).

What makes a good NHS consultant? ›

Consultants need to be good clinicians who put people first. To do that, we need training and support, and leeway to make mistakes and learn – in a safe way. We then are well placed to be powerful advocates for our patients and their care.

Is EY better than Deloitte? ›

Deloitte has a rating of 4.7 stars with 88 reviews. EY has a rating of 4.7 stars with 54 reviews. See side-by-side comparisons of product capabilities, customer experience, pros and cons, and reviewer demographics to find the best fit for your organization.

What is the number 1 consulting firm? ›

McKinsey is known as the “gold standard” in management consulting and is the most recognized management consulting firm in the world. McKinsey hires the smartest and most talented people and has generated the greatest number of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Does Big 3 pay more than Big 4? ›

Top 3 firms charge clients 3-4 times more per day than Big 4 firms due to the nature of the work, and this gets reflected in the average compensation for consultants. A partner at a Top 3 firm will often make three times more than a partner at a Big 4 firm.

How do you measure consulting performance? ›

Below is a list of six KPIs that consulting firms can use to measure their success and the success of their clients:
  1. Leads generated. ...
  2. Number of current clients. ...
  3. Rate of utilization. ...
  4. Average hourly fee. ...
  5. Repeat business rate. ...
  6. Customer satisfaction. ...
  7. Align the goals for your team. ...
  8. Assess the state of your organization.
29 Sept 2021

How do I talk like a consultant? ›

Top down communication explained (management consulting skills)

What are the stages of the consulting process? ›

5 Phases of Consulting
  • Entry and Contracting. This first phase deals with the initial contact with the client about the project. ...
  • Data Collection and Diagnosis. It's important that consultants come up with their own sense of the problem. ...
  • Feedback and the Decision to Act. ...
  • Implementation. ...
  • Extension, Recycle, or Termination.

What is a consultant mindset? ›

The Consultant Mindset is a way of working where the specialist will consult and advise his or her customer and thereby become a partner solving problems together with and for the customer in order to drive critical and needed business value for the customer's projects and business.

How can I improve my consulting skills? ›

Below are some of the most important:
  1. Quantitative and analytical skills.
  2. Ability to work under pressure and cope with challenging situations.
  3. Good teamwork skills.
  4. Flexibility.
  5. Understanding of business environments and commercial awareness.
  6. Problem-solving skills.
  7. Good interpersonal and communication skills.

What qualities should a management consultant have? ›

The best management consultants are those who have a propensity for strategic thinking and a bent toward statistical analysis, critical thinking and process improvement.

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