What is a consultant?

A Consultant is a person who provides advice or a service in response to a request. They typically do this in a professional capacity in return for a fee.

Consultants operate in a wide range of fields. These include business, education, engineering, finance, information technology (IT), management, and the military. The term consultant also has a specific meaning in medicine in the United Kingdom and certain other countries.

Internal and external consultants

An internal consultant is a consultant who is on the payroll and staff of the organization while an external consultant is hired in.

One reason firms may employ their own internal consultants is because they have a continuing need for their skills and knowledge. Such individuals also offer the added benefit of already being familiar with the organization and how it operates.

On the other hand, external consultants bring knowledge and experience of working with other organizations. Outside expertise can be of great value to firms looking for solutions with track records in other companies.


What is a consultant - image for article of two consultants - male and female
Image created by Market Business News.

Consultancy skills

In many cases, clients just want consultants to give advice in response to particular questions and problems. They will expect the consultant to be an expert on the subject and to possess relevant experience, such as in implementing appropriate solutions in firms like theirs.

  • Emotional intelligence

However, even in these instances, the effective consultant needs emotional intelligence that matches their IQ.

As well as being a subject-matter expert who is good at diagnosing and solving problems, the effective consultant fosters good relationships and communications with clients. They must also be able to manage themselves and be resilient to stress. In consultancy, the human dimension is as important as the technical one.

  • Valuable client relationship

According to William Johnson, managing director of the Openside Group – formerly known as Psychological Skills for Professional Services (PSfPS) – successful consultancy depends on specialist knowledge and valuable client relationships. He wrote about this in a 2017 article about the role of emotional intelligence in consulting.

Clients will often see, argues Johnson, that consultancy firms offer very similar levels of expertise. But what distinguishes them will be how they relate to clients.

Individual consultants may also find it hard to differentiate themselves just on expertise.

“While knowledge and experience can get individuals ‘through the door,'” writes Johnson, “an ability to listen, adapt, collaborate, empathize, and build trust is what will set a firm apart from competitors and individuals from their peers.”

With the advancement of digital tools and platforms, consultants increasingly rely on data analytics and online collaboration tools to enhance their service delivery and provide more precise, evidence-based solutions to clients.

Three images showing three consultants at work
Created by Market Business News using Microsoft material.

Impact of Globalization and Cross-Cultural Consulting

Over the past fifty years, the world has become a global village. After the Internet came onto the scene in a big way at the end of the last century, many aspects of our lives changed significantly. This includes how we work, study, communicate, shop, do our banking, and watch our favorite TV shows and movies.

Globalization has had a considerable influence on the consulting industry. Today, consultants frequently navigate diverse cultural landscapes, adapting their approach and strategies to meet the varying needs of a global client base.

They need to understand and respect different cultural nuances, communication styles, and business practices.

A consultant can help bridge a cultural gap, facilitate smoother international collaborations, and help companies break into new markets.

Worldwide, there’s a growing demand for consultants skilled in managing these cross-cultural dynamics.

Compound phrases with ‘consultant’

In the world of business, there are dozens of compound phrases containing the term ‘consultant.’ Let’s have a look at five common ones:

  1. Management Consultant: Advises on business management and efficiency.
  2. IT Consultant: Specializes in technology strategies and solutions.
  3. Financial Consultant: Provides financial planning and investment advice.
  4. HR Consultant: Offers guidance on human resources practices.
  5. Freelance Consultant: Independent, works on contract across multiple clients.

Other examples include Environmental Consultant, Marketing Consultant, Legal Consultant, Strategy Consultant, Communications Consultant, Political Consultant, Healthcare Consultant, Education Consultant, Risk Consultant, Social Media Consultant.

Video – What is a Consultant?

This video presentation, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what a ‘Consultant’ is using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.