In my last post, I defined business development and the various forms of business development support that an organisation could engage to achieve its goals. Briefly, business development is ‘the process of finding new strategic opportunities that create long-term value’. It is based on building and sustaining the various relationships that a business needs to reach the next level of growth.
Recent trends show a move towards using specialised knowledge in different fields to achieve better results in specific areas. The energy industry (renewables, oil and gas) have engaged with me, with some support from Scottish Enterprise and similar bodies.
As a business development consultant, I have seen an increase in the use of business development professionals and, specifically the use of consultants to focus on strategic growth. However, the benefits of using a consultant over other options are not often clear. Senior execs and managing directors don’t often consider this option in their search for the right set of skills that will get the job done.
Here are three benefits of using a business development consultant within your organisation.
1. Access to relevant and diverse experience
My business development counterparts come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. They are usually highly knowledgeable about one or more industries, where they have a wealth of experience and strong networks. Over time, they will have worked with dozens of organisations, helping them to work through business growth challenges and opportunities.
Therefore, business development consultants come with relevant and diverse experience. They provide a fresh pair of eyes and generate creative ideas that may difficult to see if you have only ever worked in a specific industry or company.
Because of the varied work consultants do, they can benchmark against other parties, to give their clients a true view of how they stack up with their peers and an idea of who they can collaborate within an industry to create further opportunities.
2. Enhanced networking opportunities
Research shows that companies have more confidence in external consultants than in-house ones. The role demands an inquisitive, firm approach and an ability to ask difficult questions. This is not easy for in-house business development staff.
Consultants often have a vast network and can talk on behalf of a client rather than presenting themselves as the client. For instance, their business cards would be that of their own company rather than of the client’s company. This could alleviate some of the barriers that occur when meeting potential customers or partners because it appears less “sales-y”.
Also, due to working in varied businesses and sectors, consultants often have access to several different networking groups/organisations. Many of these are at senior level. Drawing upon this experience, they should be able to advise which events will be most beneficial for your own business.
Many consultants have associate networks and will call upon these when required, to make sure you get the best advice/service possible. This might be needed when working on a diversification strategy into other sectors, for example.
3. Potential cost savings
Instead of committing to permanent employment, bringing in a consultant can help to keep costs low. For instance, you don’t pay for NIC, holidays, sickness or pension.
I found this cost calculator, which you might find useful: Consultants vs True Cost of Employees.
Consultants know that they have limited time. They work hard from the onset to deliver early wins and showcase successes. Therefore, not only might they cost less, but a good consultant will work hard to be more cost-efficient.
But look out for this…
Before hiring a business development consultant, make sure you meet them in person. It seems simple, but I have come across business owners who have hired consultants (from any function) based on a phone conversation. Even if pressed for time, meet the consultant first, even if it needs to be a Skype call due to being an overseas project etc.
Job applications always require information about past work experience; it is the same for a consultant. If you are bringing external support into your business, ask about their experience in similar roles. What specific activities have they been involved in? What are their key strengths? This information will provide clarity about the consultant’s fit for the business.
And, finally, get recommendations from the consultant’s previous clients. You can get quite detailed feedback and don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about the consultant’s work ethics, attitude to challenge and ability to work with people at all levels of the organisation.
There is great value in using an external business development consultant to achieve your business goals. It provides specific experience and increased networking potential, all at reasonable, short-term costs. But be sure to ask the right person before you hire and always get a recommendation!