It’s no secret that the tech sector has seen significant growth in the last few years. With that expansion, there has been an influx of opportunities for short-term contract workers to meet the demands of the tech sector. This changing workforce has developed into what’s known as the Gig Economy, where a growing number of contract workers or consultants offer their services for the duration of short “gigs” with a given company. In fact, according to Intuit the Gig Economy comprises 34% of the entire U.S. workforce and is expected to grow to 43% by the year 2020.
Alongside the rapid adoption of IoT devices, this shifting employment style has created demand for tech and industry consultants. However, the increasing number of professionals available to meet these needs can cause the word “consultant” to lose some of its specificity. But does this mean that hiring a consultant is over-hyped?
The answer is no; hiring a consultant is definitely not over-hyped.
In fact, it can be a strategic maneuver for your company regardless of industry. Consultants bring decades of beneficial experience, relationships, connections, resources, and skills that you can effectively leverage to leapfrog ahead of your competition.
The key to establishing a successful relationship with a consultant lies in selecting the right person to work with. Here’s what to look for to find a great consultant for your company:
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A Proven Track Record in the Right Industry
First, choose someone with a proven track record in your target industry or market. Someone who consistently builds products or relationships in your chosen field can shave years off your sales cycle. This is due to the breadth of tools that an industry-specific consultant will bring to the table.
The right industry consultant will have previously-established relationships that would otherwise take years to develop. This allows you to borrow the credibility that this individual has built over years or decades. As a result, you will gain much quicker access to proven decision makers to close sales quickly for your products.
Early on after founding I.D. Systems, I hired a consultant with strong connections at Avis Rental Car. Since this consultant was willing to vouch for our technology, we were able to easily borrow his professional ties and company rapport to set a meeting with the president of Avis. The consultant was a perfect fit for IDSY at the time, because we were trying to enter the rental car industry with our advanced RFID technology.
RFID tech generally wasn’t perceived to be as advanced as our application was during this time, so our consultant’s confidence and leverage were crucial factors that got us in the door with an industry leader who otherwise might not have seen the game-changing implications that our technology provided for Avis. As a direct result of our consultant’s work and connections, we established a meeting that quickly led to our first demo and our first purchase in the rental car industry. This saved a lot of time and resources that might have otherwise been spent attempting to build the necessary rapport and relationships. It guaranteed our message would be heard by the right person.
Based on that first success, I hired an aviation consultant—an important maneuver, because like rental car, the aviation industry is typically dominated by relatively few players. There was no room for error when trying to establish connections in this space. Our consultant mitigated this issue by directing us to the correct people at trade shows, and pointing us to the industry publications that our clients would engage with for advertising opportunities.
Perhaps most importantly, this consultant spoke the aviation industry’s language. Almost every industry has a different language for their day-to-day operations. It is crucial to ensure that your product can be translated into the right terms, because your prospective client’s perceptions of your value hinges upon whether they can imagine it as a solution for their own needs. If you’re not communicating your own value in familiar terms, you might easily miss a sale with a large buyer. Our consultant immediately proved their worth by helping us avoid these issues so that we could facilitate game-changing deals in the field of aviation.
Previous Successes With Your Company’s Stage of Development
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel during your company’s projects. When you tap into a consultant’s wide range of experience, they can help you determine what is proven to have worked—or sometimes more importantly, what didn’t work. This is especially important when your competitors have VC resources or advisory at their disposal. You need an industry representative with experience in your company’s current phase. When trying to beat competitors to a patent or to market, losing time and resources simply isn’t an option. Consultants can help you be more agile than your competition.
If you’re in the product ideation and planning phase, find someone who has been successful with this type of project. If you’re bringing an IoT product to market, find a consultant who has a great track record of building effective go-to-market strategies.
A consultant with years of experience in your target industry and your company’s development stage will help you make important decisions about your product’s specifications. With relevant experience comes the foresight to anticipate problems and prevent them. Consultants with experience directing your type of project can advise you on what your product should or should not do. They can also predict what functions you can/should add later to give your company the best opportunity to dominate the market or establish a strong niche. He or she can guide you to which functions will cost less to develop but could bring a very high return for the end user, and vice versa.
Project-specific consultants can also help you predict what your projected price point will mean for your product’s reception in the industry. They can advise you on what companies will be willing to pay, as well as interpret previous benchmarks and expectations that might hinder or help you.
This is critical as the IoT space grows, because the increasing number of competitors requires you to make smarter decisions about how you spend your time and resources. You want to be certain that you’re investing in specifications that are at the right price point and will deliver sales growth in the future.
The Resources to Take Advantage of Relevant Marketing Opportunities
When you find a consultant who has a great track record in both your target industry and your company’s development stage, chances are good that their advice and connections will help you market your product. The relationships that a consultant has built over time in your industry will have created a network of professionals that you can reach almost instantly.
These connections might consist of individuals who can send you exclusive invitations to networking opportunities with major players, and access to critical industry data points. They may also consist of editors from trade publications, or industry thought leaders.
Due to the network-building capabilities you gain from your chosen consultant, your company may have earlier access to relevant industry news. This will help you appear at the events or in the media outlets that will get the word out about your solution, and to make sure it finds the right audience. It also opens the door for your marketing team to strategize properly and make the most of these options.
ROI is Seen Through Impact
As someone who’s been on both sides of the consulting equation, I’ve truly seen how impactful a consultant’s influence is. While at IDSY, we achieved results with consultants that would have been nearly impossible to accomplish so rapidly without those individuals’ connections and experience. Now that I consult with companies and provide the same type of industry and company expertise, I’m able to see the trajectory of my clients’ sales cycles grow rapidly due to these same types of connections—but from the perspective of a consultant instead.
For example, one company that I consult with is an industry leader in the lithium battery field. By leveraging my connections with decision-makers at each of the F100 companies who use their technology in the market, I’ve been able to connect them with the right buyers—which translates directly into shorter and more successful sales cycles.
Other clients of mine have needed help positioning their product in the market or understanding how to price their products. Rather than wasting valuable time and energy guessing at what pricing options were best, I was able to advise them to plan for sustainable and scalable growth based on proven pricing models, while pointing them toward the features that would be most appealing to buyers in the industry.
Effective leadership sometimes requires you to recognize when to hand the reins for specific tasks to people who can best guide you and your team through your company’s phases of growth. By leveraging the right consultant’s long-standing relationships and industry knowledge, you can adjust your product and put your company ahead of the curve.
With all of these benefits, it’s easy to see that hiring consultants isn’t over-hyped. The trick is simply to find the consultant whose expertise and resources match your company’s goals. The ROI is there and shows that the Gig Economy is growing a resource that shouldn’t be overlooked.
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