What’s it Take to be a Top Tier Consultant?

by Ross Squire
November 12, 2020


After spending more than 30 years of my professional career working with consultants and representing consulting services to Fortune 500 clientele, I can recognize and truly appreciate top-tier consultants. Not all people are cut out to be consultants.

Below are four key attributes that I use to identify top-tier consultants. These consultants possess all of the key attributes. 

1. Masters of Their Craft
They are firmly rooted in the approaches and methodologies that govern their industry. Within the learning space this would include formal grounding in adult learning theory, instructional design, organization development and effectiveness, and performance improvement. They are dedicated students of their craft with a commitment to remain ahead of the edge. Typically active in professional societies and associations, attend and present at industry conferences, or write for industry publications. They have built a social and professional network where they are recognized for their knowledge and quality of their deliverables.

2. They are True Business Partners
Rock solid business and performance consulting skills. They are able to understand and uncover business goals, breakdowns, challenges, and objectives. All learning solutions are designed to support the client in meeting their underlying business challenges. In many cases, they are viewed by clients as business partners, not as an outside resource. Their opinions are valued and respected and in most cases engagements lead to additional engagements. They are resale machines.

3. They are Extraordinary Communicators
These consultants have an uncanny ability to communicate with people at all levels of the organization. In times of conflict and stress they are able to work with clients providing resolutions to issues that pose a threat to the success of the engagement. When times get tough they are keenly focused on the ultimate objective of the engagement. They have an extraordinary ability to blend with clients and resolve disagreements where everyone is left with a win. These consultants speak honestly, directly, and their commitment to excellence is never questioned.

4. They are Hard-wired to Serve Clients
Everyone knows the importance of satisfying clients, but I have found that top-tier consultants are almost genetically inclined to serve and satisfy clients. Serving customers is a consistent theme throughout their careers. Serving clients is not a concept but a mantra. Top tier consultants recognize that while their assessments may be valid, the assessments of their clients are more important. They are finely tuned to the satisfaction of their clients and are sure to consistently check in on their satisfaction. Difficult conversations are had the moment they arise, communication is proactive, and engagements end positively. 

Consultants with these four attributes are in high demand by clients and greatly minimize risks associated with a consulting engagement. For organizations like KnowledgeStaff that provide consulting services, these consultants offer us a sense of comfort and peace of mind. We know that the job is going to get done, and both KnowledgeStaff and our clients will be satisfied.