There are many benefits to hiring an external consultant across almost any vertical — be it sales, marketing, programming or business strategy, bringing in specialists can be an important step in overcoming obstacles and achieving new heights. By hiring externally, companies can instantly gain specific skills for certain projects, get an outsider’s perspective without emotional investment to the business and augment their team to give them more resources for time-dependent tasks.
Firstly, it is important to understand what consultants are, what they do and how they do it. Think of them as an expert in their field, usually focusing on a narrow set of specialties that they excel in deploying across a wide variety of verticals. A (great) marketing consultant will be able to apply their skills to implement their solutions, regardless of the industry or challenges faced by their client, whereas a (great) sales consultant will be able to look at a target market and the product in question, and map a successful sales plan.
The challenge for business owners is ensuring that they are utilizing this resource to the fullest and not doing anything that will impede their success. There are four key factors to consider before investing in an external consultant.
1. Share the skeletons in the closet.
For consultants to fully understand the lay of the land, they must have full visibility of the entire company — the good and bad, financial issues, internal grievances and everything in between. It is too common for businesses to try to hide these negative aspects from all external partners, but this knowledge will help your consultants understand the landscape in which they are operating in fully — something critical for them to be successful.
2. Establish KPIs.
Both parties should know what results are being evaluated — nothing should be taken for granted. This discussion should be had before a plan of action is created and in advance of any contracts being signed. Without a joint understanding of the metric used to measure success, one party may be under the impression that a project is going well, while the other is woefully disappointed.
3. Organize the breakup.
It is a good idea to discuss the parting of ways at the beginning. This process can be brought forwards, or delayed whenever needed, however, both the consultant and the company should be aware of what is expected of them when they part ways, from what information is confidential to the amount of information or collateral shared afterwards. By having this agreement at the beginning of the relationship, bad breakups can be avoided.
4. Explore challenges rather than setting objectives.
Possibly the most important factor of the four. Consultants are specialists who by nature will seek the best solution to the challenge laid out in front of them. By outlining the challenges faced by the company, the consultant can explore the causes and the best solutions — thereby setting objectives alongside the stakeholders. In the field of marketing, this could be a business hiring a consultant to boost SEO, rather than exploring the challenge of driving more traffic to the website or taking a step back further to attract more leads. By giving consultants the ability to fully deploy their skills against a challenge, instead of assuming a solution and finding someone to deploy it, creative solutions can be found and companies can get a new viewpoint on the obstacles they are facing.
Finding the perfect person to gel with your needs is not easy, but the right consultant can bring incalculable value to your business, provided they are utilized to the fullest. These four fundamentals will help you ensure you get the very best from any specialist you hire.
I’d love to hear anyone else’s tips on getting the most out of consultants – let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com on 27th February 2017