Quite a lot has changed in the world of consulting since I started 17 years ago. For a start, the market has matured immensely. The sale used to be an educational one, explaining exactly what it was that a consultant did, hoping the prospect would take a chance on buying something they’d never experienced before. Now, the SME sector has become much more used to hiring consultants, coaches, mentors, facilitators, trainers and other similar titles for suppliers in the same broad space. Most have used one and/or are currently doing so.
So why would anyone want to move into what is now an extremely crowded market?
It’s certainly not easy to carve a niche from a standing start. Selling fresh air is always tricky, but now the buyer is pretty clear what they are looking for. If you’ve achieved mastery in your particular field, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be you. Beware though, there are many excellent, experienced consultants with an established presence and healthy following. Don’t think that you can attend a course for a few days, buy a toolkit and expect to dominate your chosen target market without a significant lead time.
Differentiating your offer will be critical. Being just one more generalist consultant in such a congested space will make you invisible to any discerning purchaser. Specialising in a particular industry sector, specific type of service or innovative form of delivery will be a key success factor.
However, it is most definitely worth the effort in considering consulting as your next venture and carefully compiling a cunning market entry strategy. The privilege of working closely, indeed quite intimately with clients at times, sharing the complexity of their journey, adding value to that journey and therefore sharing in the successes and occasional failures of a range of clients over a period of time has to be the most rewarding occupation.
It’s the best job in the world – not the best paid necessarily, but certainly the most fulfilling.