Monday, May 12, 2008

Surviving as an Independent Consultant - 5 Suggestions to Improve your Chances

As these economic times appear to be more and more difficult, consultants around the world are bracing for significant declines in current revenue stream. However, there is a particular niche of consultants – the Microsoft Dynamics group of independents – who will perhaps feel the pinch a little more. So, what to do when things turn sour?

1. Learn or improve upon existing skills. If you are not in tune or familiar with particular aspects of the Dynamics application you currently support, you can sign up for online classes, read manuals and participate in discussion boards. You will soon discover that the aspects of the application you have been neglecting are now a part of your arsenal of skills, and allow you to market yourself better among new and existing customers.

Don’t be afraid of learning another Dynamics application! Believe it or not, the financial and distribution concepts are not that far apart in each solution, plus you will enjoy doing so as much as you did learning the current product you support.

2. Network with others. The best way to market your skills and to become known in the business community is by attending industry seminars, specialized Microsoft events, and partner tradeshows. However, it will be also necessary to dust off the rolodex and begin contacting peers and customers with whom you have conducted business in the past. You never know, maybe there goes your next upgrade!

3. Partner with other independent consultants. You will find that no one individual possesses all the skills required or can provide all services demanded by a customer. This will also give you the opportunity to learn new skills, while offering those you are currently in command of. I have found that this experience lead many independents to become founders of new business ventures.

4. Keep your prospects close and your customers closer. It’s important to make new prospects feel valued, hence follow up with courtesy calls after an initial meeting. A follow up will allow your prospect to ask any questions that may have been omitted during the first meeting, while introducing professionalism into the newly forged relationship.

A big part of an independent consultant’s revenue stems from new business with existing customers. Make sure you listen to your customers’ needs while keeping an eye open for new opportunities. However, don’t pretend to know everything! Customers value honesty. If you find yourself in a situation where you are asked to perform work outside of your range of skills, simply say no and consider partnering with someone (see suggestion number 3).

5. Be professional in your documentation. Nothing says “I care” more than the documentation you produce for your customers and prospects. Take the time to produce quality quotes, statements of work, interim project documentation, and project closing documents. Invest time in learning some of these techniques as they will come in handy and say a great deal about you and your delivery skills.

These times are very challenging, but certainly an opportunity to boost your skills. If you invest in training, cultivate your professional network, and remain attentive to prospects and customers, you will be in a unique position for when things turn around.

MG.-
Mariano Gomez, MIS, MCP, PMP
Maximum Global Business, LLC
http://www.maximumglobalbusiness.com/

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