By Leezan Omerbell
Government consulting is a big industry. Luckily for you, the industry is not as mysterious as some make it out to be. In fact, it is a profession with very clear expectations and requirements. Most of these expectations are based on common sense that are also shared across other industries. The requirements are tied to your contract’s scope of work, which requires no guessing. However, I would like to point out that there are a lot of consultants providing almost the exact same service as you are planning to provide. In other words, there are thousands of “you.” So, how do you distinguish yourself from the rest? Through lessons learned at Country Intelligence Group, we have compiled a list of the most important things to practice and keep in mind when providing service to your government client:
- Understand your client’s organization: Study and understand your client’s organization by researching where their organization falls within the government framework. For example, the Department of Defense is large and contains not only the Military Services but also the Combatant, Geographical, and Functional Commands, as well as the 4th Estates. So, if your client is a DoD “agency,” it falls under the 4th Estates. In addition, research the organization’s mission and how they relate to other DoD and non-DoD entities.
- Know the Stakeholders: Knowing the stakeholders is crucial to being a consultant. Pay attention to who the stakeholders are, both internally and externally. Do your due diligence and conduct a stakeholder analysis to understand each stakeholder’s interest, influence, and future participation in your client’s program or project.
- Pay attention to the internal culture: This one sound obvious but can be easily overlooked. Pay attention to the internal culture of your client’s organization. This will help you navigate any vague or sensitive situations you might encounter.
- Study the rank and grades: If you don’t come from a military background, it would be beneficial for you to study military ranks that are applicable to your client’s organization and stakeholders. It would also be beneficial to learn civilian grades and their military equivalent.
- Identify the decision makers: Your client is going to depend on you to help strategize and communicate level of efforts with individuals throughout the organization and across the stakeholder domain. For this purpose, you need to be able to map out and identify decision makers within the crowd. This is where you can help your client make impactful engagements.
- Remember, we only “recommend”: This one can be difficult for many to understand. Your job as a consultant is to recommend solutions and options to your client. That is it.
- Listen: I am sure you have heard this multiple times, but it really is an overlooked interpersonal skill. If you want to understand your client and their pain points, really listen to what they are saying and even to what they are not saying.
- Always follow up: When turning in a product or providing a recommendation, always follow up with your client. Ask questions to figure what whether the product met their expectations or if they have any feedback for you. Did your recommendation cover the pain point or was there an angle you missed? Take this feedback, implement the changes (if any), and re-engage.
- You are not part of the staff: Remember, you are not part of the extended staff. You are a hired consultant.
- Remain Professional: Always, always, always, remain professional. You are not part of the staff and should not take part in office gossip. This will be hard if staff members come to you and begin such a conversation. But just because they do, does not mean you should contribute to an unprofessional gossip session.
Your value to your client is that you are a consultant with a wide range of expertise to provide. Wear your badge of honor with pride and take lead in the government consulting world!
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