Six consulting skills that cultivate real relationships

Our understanding is that most e-commerce consultants are familiar with these Consulting Skills, but often fail to utilize them. Here are six consulting skills that every successful (senior e-commerce) consultant should practice in order to cultivate real relationships with the people they work with.

1) Know your stakeholders

Read up on (client) company history, ownership, and financial results over recent years. Understand the bigger picture and the challenges the client is facing. Understand who is calling the shots, who your sponsor is, and who informally influences the decision-maker(s). Also, probe for needs and new pain points by employing a cross-functional communication technique. Upon identifying key objectives or initiatives, take interest in its progress (even if it’s outside your area of responsibility).

2) Manage expectations

When negotiating tasks and delivery, make sure to understand the purpose and objective of the task, but also think ahead to secure you have all assets you need for successful delivery. Missed expectations always come down to:

A) Misunderstandings around the actual task and delivery.
B) Unexpected roadblocks (e.g. could not get hold of the right person).
C) Lack of skill to perform the task.
D) Lack of motivation.

Proper negotiation should remove reasons A and B. If you face reason C you could always ask a trusted colleague for help. Reason D should never be an issue.

3) Presentation technique

When preparing a presentation, always map out the purpose, objective, approach, and deliverables:

  • Purpose (“inspire a discussion around more efficient Facebook marketing”)
  • Objective (“at least three new ideas to try out”)
  • Approach (how will you achieve the purpose and objective, e.g. your agenda)
  • Deliverables (presentation material and action lists).

Start the presentation with who you are, what your credentials are around the topic/subject, and then go through the points (above). Practice with dry runs!

4) Storytelling in reports

Always look for wins to communicate in the organization. If performance is poor, look for a specific market, channel, or campaign that goes against the tide. A productive format for (weekly) reports in teams and up the ladder can be:

  • Good news last week – should be something that happened, e.g. our last campaign had x % more sales than last year.
  • Focus this week – is the action list you will focus on. Should address any poor performance issues and operational issues that are most urgent.
  • Help – here you list what you need in terms of assistance from other teams, budgets, and other assets to get your focus list done.

5) Feedback

As a way to debrief meetings and reports, use feedback: What was helpful? Are there any areas for improvement? Focus on the positives! This can be expanded upon to promote a growth mindset. You should tailor your feedback accordingly.

6) Testimonials and roll-off

Before rolling off, collect the data you need to build your achievements story. Ask for references from your client (a satisfied client will be happy to give them). Also, communicate to any suppliers and third parties, informing them that you will be leaving and thanking them for a successful collaboration.

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