With the increase of remote work, core skills are now often preceded by the adjective “virtual” — as in virtual presence, virtual presentations, virtual networking and virtual consulting. The distinction of those skills within a virtual setting is due to the mindset needed to be effective. Understanding how to leverage traditional consulting skills in the virtual environment will benefit your career, and just as importantly, your customers’ outcomes.
With the pivot to increased, if not full, online work in many sectors in the past year, the absence of those working lunches, on-site tours and marathon whiteboard meetings has challenged many consultants who are now operating in the virtual environment. Consultants should already have adaptability and communications in their professional tool belt. Now, highly successful consultants can also apply technology, emotional intelligence and customer relationship skills within the virtual settings.
Virtual Consultant Tool: Technology
Even if you are working as part of an internal consulting team, you must be able to effectively use different types of technology to communicate. For example, do not assume that if your company only uses Slack, you do not need to bother with other platforms. Your company may change systems or add tools, and your external vendors and partners may use yet another set of tools.
Log in to virtual meetings early to find the controls and practice using them. Try to know the basics (e.g., mute, share screen, video on, etc.) so that in your consultation sessions, your audience’s focus is on the information you are sharing, not whether you can unmute yourself.
Virtual Consultant Tool: Emotional Intelligence
Being virtual does not mean you ignore the “soft” side or human side of your interactions. In fact, it means that human connection is of even greater importance, because you do not have the casual walk-by or employee café moments to connect between scheduled meetings.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to use different clues to read a situation and then react in a respectful, productive and authentic manner. Consider these tips:
- Use your webcam, even if no one else on the call does. Be willing to make eye contact, even if you can’t see their eyes.
- Recognize that your client may be juggling home school, elder care and their job. Be flexible in scheduling.
- Ask how others are doing, and if they need to talk, give them that space. If they do not, don’t push it. Be an active listener who respects privacy.
Virtual Consultant Tool: The Client Relationship
In past roles, I have, admittedly, enjoyed when a vendor consultant dropped off cookies at my office or treated me to a working lunch. Virtual work and health safety protocols have changed how we engage, but you still can’t ignore your clients until you need something from them.
Successful virtual consultants recognize change and adapt. They recognize that their clients are also having to adjust how they work and where they work and deal with additional challenges brought by the pandemic. Here are some tips that can help:
- Ask about preferred communication tools and times.
- Share quick notes that include links to resources or webinars of interest.
- Provide a written follow-up after virtual meetings to reinforce the importance of the time you shared and the work you completed.
The effort you make to recognize and respect the challenges your clients are facing in their role can be the foundation of a productive professional relationship.
Virtual Consulting Skills: For Everyone
If you work with humans or create things that other humans will use, you need consulting skills. Being able to adapt to both on-site and virtual settings is no longer an option; it a necessity. Regardless of your current job title, effective virtual consulting skills will enable you to demonstrate your adaptability and focus on positive collaboration with others.
Want to learn more on this topic? Sign up for the virtual Training Industry Conference & Expo, and watch Megan’s live session.