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To be an effective consultant (part 2)

I wanted to continue my first post on being an effective consultant with this -- the sequel.  What I mentioned before greatly hinges on the ability to quickly learn but adaptation and becoming a SC Ninja is more than learning.  Another attribute and key ingredient to being an effective consultant is blending in, too.  I mentioned "blending in" earlier but want to touch on this a bit more.

Clients and stakeholders typically aren't likely to care much for your fancy clothes, fancy cars, whatever.  In fact, fancy clothing and fancy cars (rental or otherwise) can actually be a strong turn off and even lead clients to believe they're paying too much.  The Great Recession has reignited the need for clients to cut costs.  Sometimes, clients need consultants to help identify those costs, but they aren't willing to net zero when the costs for consultants are so much more.  So when entering any project, be sure to know what the dress code is like at the client site.  Don't overdress.  I've heard before to dress no more than a half-step above.  So if the client wears jeans and polos, you can typically wear the same; however, it can be advisable to wear a pair of slacks and a button-up.  If the client wears ties, wear a tie... with a blazer if you so choose.  And if the rental car company upgrades you to a BMW or other high-end brand, opt for a less-fancy vehicle.  

Along with blending in, you'll need to also understand and mimic the culture.  When I say culture, I don't necessarily mean dietary habits.  Instead, I'm referring to being able to also act and speak the same language.  Being an effective consultant, SC Ninja, or even a secret agent, you need you blend in as if you're one with the crowd.  You don't see James Bond rapping when he walks into a ballroom full of rich villains, right?  Same with being a consultant, you need to be able to match the intellect and language of the clients.  Or at least, act like them.  If you're a consultant, you're probably bright.  Don't outshine the client.    You always want to portray yourself as intelligent -- that's why they paid for your services.  However, you don't want that intelligence to be off-putting and make clients feel "stupid" or "inferior.  If the client is conservative or highly professional, likewise, don't walk in boisterous and start cussing.  In fact, it's best you don't cuss unless the client is pretty expletive-friendly, too, and you've developed a good rapport with the client.

In short, to be an effective consultant, think of what a Supply Chain Ninja would do or a secret agent.  Blend in.  Don't stand out.  These keys are essential, especially when you're in an environment when you know the client is not as up-to-speed as yourself or your team.  Be the Ninja.

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