5 Ways to Make Hiring a Consultant Pay Off

5 ways to make hiring a consultant


The thought of hiring a consultant can be both terrifying and exciting. Consultants, with their specific expertise and vast experience, can often be a tremendous resource—or a total waste of money. According to Plunkett research, it is a lucrative field that was estimated to gross about $431 billion in revenue in 2014.

Before you contribute to that massive pool of consulting fees, you need to know that your money is being well-spent. We turned to the experts to give you industry insight on how you can get the most bang for your buck when finding the most suitable expert-for-hire.

Get specific. Marketing, management, logistics, operations—for every function in your company, there’s a consultant who’s more than willing to tell you what to do. When it comes to consulting, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. According to Andy Birol, founder of Birol Growth Consulting, business owners seeking consulting services should know whether they are looking for strategic or tactical consulting before their consultant search begins. Strategic consulting focuses on objectives that are general but aren’t specific, whereas tactical consulting helps to implement specific plans of actions.

So, what kind of help do you need? Look for places where you feel “stuck” in your business. Are there areas or departments where you feel like the business isn’t growing or where bottlenecks happen often? Are there goals that your business is falling short of achieving? Be as specific as possible in identifying where you can use help. Instead of looking at your promotional results and concluding that you need marketing help, look more closely. Do you need help getting leads from your social media? Or, do you want more publicity for your business to establish it as a leader in the sector? You’ll likely need two entirely different types of expertise for each. The more specifically you can pinpoint where you need help, the more effective you can be in finding a consultant who will be effective for you, Birol says

When it comes to experience, Exceed Network often recommends that you look for people who have successfully navigated the type of challenge or opportunity you’re facing, even if it is in a different sector. For example, if your business is facing a serious drop in sales and revenue, it’s likely that you need someone experienced in turnarounds rather than someone who doesn’t know how to immediately slow losses and increase revenue, but has experience in your industry.

Establish trust. Once you’ve identified the right type of consultant, you need to establish trust. Rick Lepsinger, president of On-Point Consulting, says that trust between both the client and the consultant ensures that the consultant has your best interest at heart.

“Gain trust through dialogue, through listening, and through conversation in a more open-ended way,” he says.

The first thing your consultant should be doing is asking thoughtful questions about your business. Then, when he or she proposes solutions, there should be a solid rationale for why this is the right answer for your business. The consultant should be able to explain why the recommendation is right for you, as well as how similar efforts have performed for other clients. Start with a small project or initiative to make sure you’re a good fit for each other and to be sure he or she is effective for you, Lepsinger says. If he or she isn’t listening to you or is trying to force solutions on you, move on.

Shut down jargon, Some consultants are infamous for using confusing language and corporate-speak to be deliberately vague about their plans or ideas. Don’t be afraid to call out overly complex, inflated language or simple, non-persuasive language. Simply saying, “Could you be clearer about what you mean?” or “Could you explain that in layman’s terms?” can help you get a clearer understanding of what, exactly, the consultant is proposing. Lepsinger suggests that you ask yourself two questions: Do they have the right language? Do they talk in a way that resonates with my customers? If not, this might not be a good fit.

Embrace customization. Once you’ve clearly addressed and framed your problem, it’s time to establish the most successful solution. “Avoid having a consultant that pushes your problem into their solution,” Lepsinger says.

The right consultant should create solutions that are customizable to their client’s needs. Garnering the best solutions to your needs also involves finding the industry expert that knows how to market to your customer base. It’s less important to choose a consultant who has industry experience than it is to choose a consultant who understands how to reach your customers and what matters to them, Birol says.

Say “no” to the running meter. Measure the engagement in deliverable rather than an amorphous hourly rate, Birol says. Both experts advise avoiding the “running meter” approach of payment. Instead of paying hourly or daily, establish an overall project fee that is agreed upon before the start of the project. This gives the intended consultant a realistic expectation of the services that need to be delivered while giving the client a price point to keep in mind.

“You’re not paying for the consultant’s time. You’re paying for how they have changed your situation for the better,” Birol says.


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