Entrepreneurs are doers. Consultants are talkers. Until they do.
Before starting my own business I worked in a variety of global sales and marketing roles for large and small companies in Asia, Europe, the Americas. I learned how to sell to individuals, I learned how to sell complex enterprise solutions, I learned how to sell commodities and manufactured goods and I learned what it meant to create a plan and be held accountable for that plan. I learned to train and lead sales teams. I learned to combine marketing with sales.
Yet, it was all my own experience and my own learnings.
What I didn't learn is that having an outside perspective is important, or why it is needed.
Often as entrepreneurs, we feel we can do all the important things on our own. We want to run the business our way, and want make sure we leave our mark. Yet, no one ever succeeds alone.
Then I started helping other entrepreneurs. Part of my business was helping companies develop their revenue strategies. I loved solving problems and looking at ways to enter new markets and train sales teams and grow revenue. I loved working with entrepreneurs and helping them see things from a new perspective while providing insights that outside experience often does.
I also learned that I wasn't needed. But, I was valuable.
I learned that they didn't need me for my ideas but for my experience and ears.
They didn't need me for my ability to sell or market, but for my ability to see things from a different, objective perspective.
They need me to do it for them, they need me as someone to trust and talk to.
And you need someone too.
Of course, there are downsides to using consultants. First, they are not cheap. Many small businesses and entrepreneurs cannot afford consultants. There are ways to work around this though. One way is to use small business advisory firms that charge hourly. Another way where you get the benefit of an outside consultant without the cost is to find a mentor. Mentors are people with solid experience that also want to help you succeed. Find a mentor who is interested in helping you. Also, if you have colleagues from different companies but in a similar role or industry, bouncing ideas off of them is a good way to get outside perspective benefits without the added cost. Plus your ideas can help them as well.
Second, a bad consultant is much worse than not using a consultant at all. If you can't hire a good one, stay away.
Having a consultant that doesn't understand your industry or specific situation will result not just in a bad idea or proposal but could undermine your entire business. You could burn bridges that might never be rebuilt. Beware of consultants that don't use data and results to drive advice. Also, since adaptability is key for entrepreneurs, if you go to market with a strategy that doesn't allow you to change, you might never recover. Make sure your consultant understands this. Verify that your consultant will listen, put your needs first, and understands the game.
If you are an entrepreneur or in charge of developing revenue strategies for your organization, it is always a good idea to have an outside voice to discuss your plans and ideas with.
When you bring in a consultant or trusted advisor, you will want a few things.
You will want them to create a detailed revenue plan so you can compare and contrast.
You will want them to give you a market analysis to see make sure you are discussing the same thing.
You will want them to be able to understand your sales process and team structure, to see if they have ideas that could help improve.
Even if you never use their ideas, take their advice, or implement anything they say, just having a listening hear and alternative voice will help you analyze and justify your decisions. Thus creating a better, more comprehensive plan.
Outside voices help you define your own. I learned that for me, strategy creation is important, but doing the work is just as fulfilling. Both strategy and execution are needed. Outside experts can help you do your job so much better. Just make sure you find one that will have your interests aligned with theirs and they should listen more than they talk.