One of the most important fundamentals in this global world working as a consultant is the ability to work interstate or overseas. Working locally in your geography is becoming increasingly challenging to derive an income from given that you are competing with a number of players. Further, if you offer something that is niche and unique, there may not be sufficient demand for that service in your local area.
Personally, it has got to the point where over 80 per cent of the income I generate as a consultant is overseas and interstate. Some key tips that I believe lead to success in consulting outside your local area include:
- Social Media and Thought Leadership: It is critical that you build your online presence as this is the first thing clients will look at when finding out a little bit about you. LinkedIn is an important medium that we have focussed on with great success.
- Preparation: Successful consultants that export take a very proactive approach to identifying strategically important clients, industries and advocates. This is critical for long term success. Detailed knowledge of your target markets and clients is critical also to ensure what you are doing is scaleable and you can deliver against your promises.
- Agility: Preparation needs to be balanced with flexibility. Things change quickly, clients move with their preferences and opportunities also present themselves. What you thought you would be doing could be different to reality. Be more like bamboo than steel when approaching opportunities as this allows you to develop in areas as well as provide additional services to your clients.
- Understand your customer: One of the biggest challenges when I am talking to other consultants who are keen to work interstate and overseas is that they don’t understand their customer. What I mean by this is the true customer who makes the decision on utilising your services. This is really important to ensuring that you are not fishing in areas where people don’t make the decisions around utilising you. Be really specific about the customer, who is the decision maker and who has authority and you will go a long way to growing your services quickly.
- Strategic Partnerships: One of the most exciting areas around our growth has been in the use of strategic partnerships. Partnerships with other organisations who provide complimentary services to your end clients but who are happy to partner up, collaborate and provide referrals. This is critical and is built on strong levels of trust. It takes a while to develop these relationships but they are well worth the investment.
- Service Differentiation: You must be clear on what you are selling, why it benefits the client and how you provide it differently to others. The last point is the critical one for consultants because the how is how clients make a decision to work with you. Be clear on what makes you unique and ensure your audio is matched with your video. That is, your words are matched by your actions in delivery.
I personally believe working with overseas clients as a consultant is a game changer on many levels. You get the opportunity to learn, grow and improve which are all great benefits of working as a consultant. You also get the opportunity to improve what you provide locally to your clients which is terrific.