“Today, knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” – Peter Drucker
What is it that consultants really sell? What is it that a consultant provides that really addresses the topic of value accretion?
Do we really sell analysis, methodologies, programs, or products per se? Actually, I would suggest that these only form the “tools of trade”, no different to a doctor’s stethoscope or a plumber’s spanner.
Theses professions and trades don’t sell their tools; rather they use these “tools” in the application of their core expertise.
So what is it good consultants actually sell?
Consultants sell two critical and valuable aspects to management (at board/CEO/executive level) in the very fast changing context of consumer and resultant retail behaviour that, when applied properly, are absolutely critical to an organisation in both gaining and keeping a competitive edge.
1. Knowledge: The absolute leader knows that knowledge is the absolute prerequisite for both gaining, maintaining and leading the competitive edge.
As Drucker and many other clear thinkers in management leadership attest, “Strategy without insightful knowledge” is merely opinion. Opinions are commoditised, insightful knowledge is gold. So a consultant first and foremost has to be armed with very best practice knowledge in their field of endeavour, typically honed in their career, and fuelled with an incessant appetite to gain more. Great consultants know their stuff, cut their teeth in the experience of their craft, and can see the forest for the trees in their ability to gain and disseminate knowledge.
In periods of great change, this knowledge is fundamental for organisation leaders to both learn and implement, such that the path to competitive edge is more assured and understood.
2. Business is about people fundamentally influencing one another to take some form of action.
Work in any corporation, see many interactions and you see that the underlying attribute in many relationships is that of confidence – simply that the navigation through the landscape is the genuine belief, that there is confidence in the decision being taken. Naturally enough, this is a direct correlate of knowledge, so that insightful knowledge from the consultant must be married to an ability to impart and provide confidence in their audience as a trusted advisor.
Of course evidential proof is key to the knowledge, as is a strong record of achievement and value add, as is a pedigree within that specific sector. Anything else is not really saleable in the longer term.
Happy fit retailing.
Brian Walker is founder and CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies.
First published on SmartCompany on 1/07/15