How to Hire a Consultant
Challenges: Are these the challenges you’re facing?
- Tried to solve a problem, but didn’t produce results
- No time to address an issue
- Need an objective person to analyze and propose solutions
- Lack of expertise to solve a nagging problem
If you identify with any of these challenges, maybe you need to hire a consultant.
Situation & Objectives:
- First, define your problem, situation, or project.
- Detail what you’d like to have done. Be specific, but don’t restrict the consultant’s freedom to employ effective methods.
State desired results important to your needs.
- Cost Savings $
- Employee Turnover Reduction %
- Increase Sales $
- Deliver product one year from today, and so on
Expertise You Need: Define the expertise and knowledge the consultant must have. For instance, is it Engineering, Marketing, Human Resources knowledge, or another expertise? Include any required industry-specific certification.
Don’t be too restrictive so you don’t eliminate good candidates. Define other skills critical to project success, such as:
- Productively works with a team of diverse people.
- Helps a leader define and analyze a problem, generate options, and plan a course of action.
- Interviews key people and gains their support.
- You might engage a “big” consulting firm, but there are often independent consultants that may meet your needs.
- Remember that you’re not hiring an employee. Position descriptions and job titles don’t apply to consultants.
- Ask associates and network contacts to recommend consultants that they know.
- Search LinkedIn.
- Post your needs on websites, social media, and in professional/trade groups. Be as specific as possible. Include technical and non-technical skills in your search criteria.
The Interview Process:
- Interview more than one consultant. Probe for skills you require. Ask for a consultant’s “SPARs”: (S)ituation or (P)roblem, (A)ction, (R)esults as follows:
(S) Situation or (P) Problem: Have the consultant describe client situations or problems they worked on that are relevant to your needs.
(A) Action: What did they do to improve the situation or solve the problem?
(R) Results: The results and value the client gained because of the consultant’s actions.
- Ask probing questions about SPARs to really understand the consultants’ role in producing results. Have them quantify results in meaningful client terms (Saved $; Reduced time-to-market by six months; etc.).
- Ask for the consultant’s client references, their contact information, and then follow up.
- Quantify the value that the consultant can produce for you.
- Ask others what they have paid for similar work and when (what year, and so on).
- Pay a reasonable price for the value received - the lowest often isn’t the best.
- Do a Return on Investment (ROI) assessment on the consulting project. Fees should satisfy you and fairly reward the consultant.
- Have a signed contract for agreed-to objectives, milestones, and metrics for payment. If cash-strapped, consider offering the consultant equity in your company.
Personal Chemistry: Ensure you have no misgivings about a specific consultant. Good relationships between the consultant and you (and your people) are critical. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t the right fit. Carefully choose your consultant.
Developing Your Personal Brand
“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.” —Jay Danzie
Why is this topic so important now?
Let’s look back before Covid (BC). How did we market ourselves? Most of us were making calls, setting up appointments, attending networking events, and charity functions. We also invested in marketing through our websites, ads, sponsorships, and a little social media.
Everything changed drastically in 2020. Suddenly, sales professionals and others could not reach people on their office phones. No one was in! Some people were checking their emails and you were lucky if you had a cell number.
That was the beginning of the explosion of LinkedIn messenger. More people were checking their LinkedIn and trying different ways to connect with potential prospects. Many found success in connecting with strangers. In addition to LinkedIn, people found that they needed to get on social media platforms for visibility. This became one of the major ways for people to build their personal brand.
What else changed? Obviously, our communication changed. Technology changed and became more important. Not many people used Zoom or TEAMS on a regular basis before 2020 and now it’s a regular tool.
The other major addition has been virtual networking. With the use of Zoom, people realized they could gather with many people online. It is a productive use of time. All squares are equal, so it really doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. You can’t hide and everyone has a chance to talk.
That brings us to today. We now have a hybrid of in-person and remote workers and events. Many are embracing a little of everything – the old and the new.
I am often asked, “What works? How do I effectively market myself?” The answer is not black and white. It’s a combination of traditional and new marketing.
I love coaching professionals on the topic of “Developing Your Personal Brand”. Here are questions that need to be addressed while planning your personal marketing strategy:
- What do you do best? Assess yourself. Are you a connector, problem solver, educator, or consultant?
- Who is your target market and where will they see you most?
- How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
- How should you promote yourself?
In addition to your style, target market, and budget you need to address your comfort zone with respect to networking, technology, and social media. Sometimes a coach can help you develop the right plan tailored to you and your business.
So, what works? It often depends on your business and target market. Here are some hot personal marketing strategies:
- Website updates with added communication tools, such as videos, blogs, or chat
- Virtual networking events
- Community events
- Social media, especially LinkedIn
- Public speaking or videos
The key to success is to design the plan that fits you. We are all unique! For a look at great sales success stories, consider reading my book, Stories From The Sales Field – Navigating a Sales Career in a Post Pandemic World, which is now available on Amazon.
Denise Horan of Integrated Management & Sales Consulting helps professionals grow revenues, acquire new clients, and develop their personal marketing strategies. Denise spends her time coaching and training sales and business development skills to entrepreneurs, sales professionals, and non-selling professionals such as lawyers and architects. Denise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.denisehoran.com.
Membership Committee News
RPCN’s membership numbers remain steady at 65 members, balancing new members with non-renewals roughly month to month. The goal for 2022-2023 was to increase membership and the most effective approach remains when you talk about RPCN to those you network with or engage with from your outside activities. There is no one “best” experience for guests as they are attending our Forums, Enhancing Human Capital (EHC), and our Learn From The Best (LFTB) sessions.
With our return to charging for LFTB, we instituted a new benefit. Guests can use their $25 fee to apply towards a regular or affiliate membership within one month of the LFTB session.
Your Board members and Membership Committee have started an initiative to reach out to members you may not know and members you have not seen in a while. If you would like to help engage or reengage members, you can reach out to me for lists and conversation guides. A challenge has been made that if emails from 20 conversations are sent to me by May 1st, I will drive in from Syracuse and attend the next Learn From The Best session in person and contribute $100 to RPCN. If everyone connects with just one person, I’ll fulfill this pledge.
Welcome New Members
Last month we mentioned the names of new members since the new year began. This month begins an expansion of that effort with a short introduction of members that have joined in the prior month. Please reach out and welcome our new members and discover where you may be able to boost their success. They may have a way to help you as well.
Bill Edwards joined RPCN in February. If Bill looks familiar, it’s because he attended a few of our live events at the Al Sigl Center.
- When you meet Bill, you will engage with a high-energy person who has accomplished much professionally as well as pursuing a couple of passionate interests.
- Bill worked for several years with a product line that started at Xerox, then went through other owners, all the while providing R&D Leadership and Project Management skills to see the product through its continual evolution.
- Bill is looking for virtual project management work while further developing his passion projects. They are CITA Ventures – Concepts InTo Action, primarily focused on expanding his past successes with film production, publishing, merchandising, and event management.
- His other passion is PROJECT U. Combining his vast experience and the John Maxwell Method, he can get people unstuck and get you from where you are to where you want to be.
- Reach out and welcome Bill at 585-472-2229 or email@example.com
Be well, everyone.
Watch the introductory video here.
Upcoming RPCN Events
Visit the RPCN website for a list of all upcoming events.Technical Forum
In-Person or Virtually
Friday, April 7, 2023
8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
5 Reasons To Start Podcasting Today
Presented by Ben Albert
In-Person or Virtually
Friday, April 14, 2023
8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
Enhancing Human Capital Lunch N' Learn
Thursday, April 20, 2023
11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
In-Person or Virtually
Friday, April 21, 2023
8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
RPCN Board Meeting
Everyone is welcome to attend.
In-Person or Virtually
Friday, April 21.m.
What Questions Lead to Solutions?
What do you do when you get that client with the convoluted problem who needed a fix yesterday? They have tried multiple things but they’re not getting where they want to be. How can you help them?
Listen carefully and note the things that are unclear to you, so you can ask more questions later. When your client is done explaining their problem, do the following:
- Ask what their objectives are and why. Ensure you your client know the why for each objective before you move on.
- Ask clarifying questions to better understand the terms of the situation. Validate your assumptions and theirs. To be an effective consultant, you need an accurate picture of the situation.
- It’s a good idea to summarize and reframe the problem back to the client to confirm your understanding.
- Note this is a conversation you are having. You’re not a detective grilling a suspected felon, so ask open-end questions and wait for the answers.
- Ask what they have done to improve the situation and why. Ensure the client can clarify information about the improvements.
- This leads you to how they are measuring results and/or evaluating the potential solution.
Then comes the fun part.
- The big problem is perhaps a combination of little problems
- If there are multiple problems, and the client doesn’t know where to begin, you must dig a little deeper to find out what is the priority for your client.
Depending on the client’s problem, you may want to ask relevant questions within the following areas. In fact, it may help to have some general questions around areas A and B before meeting the client.
- Company, Costs, Competition, Customers, Channels
- Product, Price, Place, Promotions
You’re not only trying to get the necessary questions answered. You’re also trying to create a relationship and a collaborative working situation with your client.
You don’t need to know all the answers. You and your client can get the best answers working together. So, ask their opinions during the process so they will ask you questions. They will be more forthcoming with information they thought was relevant to the situation at hand.
You may also use various tools to help the two of you work through the problem. Create flow diagrams, decision trees, or comparison tables to break down the problem into small chunks. These tools may help you and the client to uncover the details and come to a solution. In most situations, the client will need to implement the solution.
Note that you may need to revisit questions 1-6 over the course of the project. Have fun bringing yourself and your client to the “aha!” moments of greater realization and innovative, effective solutions.
Member Outreach Volunteers
The RPCN Membership Committee is looking for members who enjoy expanding their connections and learning about other industries. We are looking for two Member Outreach Volunteers. The Membership Committee has been increasing our interactions with members in several new ways, and the first area where we could benefit from additional hands (and ears) is to learn about the current business goals of your fellow members. If you’re a curious type, you will easily discover the keys that the member believes will be critical to their success, any potential challenges the member can foresee, and how RPCN may be able to help. Your minimum time investment would be just 30 minutes a week and should never exceed three hours a month.
Interested, curious? Reach out to the RPCN Membership Chair, Tom Fecteau, firstname.lastname@example.org or 315.447.0425 for more details.
RPCN Board Secretary
We have an opening for someone (or a couple people) that would like to get more involved with RPCN. It’s not a huge commitment, just one meeting each month and a bit of typing.
Are you interested? GREAT!
We need someone willing to attend the Board meetings on the 3rd Friday of each month from 10am until noon to take notes and create the Minutes for the meeting. It’s not hard work, and you get to be directly involved in the Board discussions.
If you’re interested and are willing to help out, please contact David Finger, current RPCN President, at email@example.com for more details.
We want your news!The RPCN newsletter welcomes news, success stories, tips, resources, events and other items that would be of broad interest to consultants. Submit a newsletter item to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion.
Melanie Watson, Publisher
Sandra Glanton, Copyeditor
The deadline for submitting material for our next newsletter is the 21st of this month.
Request from the Editors
When submitting material to be included in the RPCN newsletter, please:
1. Send the submission TO email@example.com and not to individuals.
2. Include the words “For RPCN Newsletter” in the subject line. (Some people send articles to ALL RPCN members themselves, and it is often difficult to distinguish those that are being circulated independently from those intended for inclusion in the newsletter.)