Consulting Consultants: That First Client

Very few people forget their first love, their first friend, or their first job. For a consultant, that goes double for their first client. When you step onto that first client’s floor, for the first time, it is an experience that can set the mood for your entire career in consulting.

It seems that there is a fear that you might say or do the wrong thing in front of the client.  While this fear is more than understandable, it can be hard to get over.  Sometimes, it can be hard because of the attitude towards consultants can be often times hatred.  They do not want you there.  This is not always the case I know, but it can make it hard to get over those first client jitters.

So how can you get over those first client jitters?  Well, if you have someone else working with you, that is a great place to start, having a familiar face or someone at least from your company is an easy way to feel comfortable.  However, you might not be so lucky.  If that is the case, then first and foremost, pay attention.  Everything they tell you, write down, re-read it later, and organize the processes and your own thoughts.  Once you have a good grasp on what is going on, you should be educated enough to comment on things.  You are not paid to sit there and not think.  You were most likely brought in to achieve a certain objective within a certain time frame.  Do not let anyone at the client stop you from doing your job.  If they try to block you, be diplomatic about it.  Try to use reason, ask for help.  Show that you actually know what you are doing and you really understand what they are talking about.  You might have to prove yourself before they will help you, especially if they do not want you there.

Everything comes down to people skills, if you lack in this area then you might want to consider reading up on the subject or attending a class.  You need to be able to communicate effectively to get your job done.  You have to keep in mind that you were brought in for a reason, you have the skills, and you can do the job.  You have to keep that in mind even at your first client.  You are the with a specific purpose.  Just do your best and you should be fine.  If you are working for a consulting firm that was brought in, chances are there are others from your company already on the ground.  Talk to them, take them out to lunch, ask for them to help you.  If you are doing you own consulting business and you landed this first client, keep in mind that you were able to land the client in the first place, that says something about your communication skills (assuming of course you did not over-exaggerate too much).  If you landed the gig on your own, then you have nothing to worry about, just get in there do what they hired you to do and do it well.  This is the first of (hopefully) many clients.

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