Consultants are sometime accused of using tactics designed to extend the life of an engagement rather than to maximize the bottom line of a client… particularly the bigger firms working on complex IT system integrations and large change management programmes, but to put all consultants into that bucket is wholly unfair. But how can you ensure you get value from an engagement with external expertise?

Trust is really important. Knowing what they have done before is helpful. But key to the success of you project is clarity – from the outset – of what success looks like. Crystal clear objectives, and time lines for achieving them. You need to know what you want, to get it written down and for both parties to agreed. Otherwise you are on course for conflict. So what should the objectives look like?

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is results. However one of the main reasons SMEs fail in a new market is because they rush headlong into something without understanding the nuances of what is different from the ways in which they have sold before. In a domestic market you probably start any new conversation with the potential customer knowing something about you. You have an established reputation that gives you a brand status. In a new market until that brand is established you have to think differently, and learn to listen. You also need to know about the organisation that you are selling to; how are they structured? How they buy? What they have invested in recently? What did the Chairman say in the annual report? There is still a classic belief with many SMEs that ‘if I can just get in front of the CEO of… [insert name of multinational company] then I can pick off some low hanging fruit and make a quick win’. Sadly that is very rarely true. It takes hard work, research, understanding and patience, and most important of all, the ability to listen, learn and respond.

And that is what the successful SMEs are superb at, particularly at the start of their growth into a new market. Because if you really understand the customer, and genuinely understand what it is they want – and why they need it, you can become their solution. SME’s can do that. As long as you are technically adept, and open to respond, and if in your heart you know you can deliver, then you can succeed.

However, going all out to be the most responsive and adaptable solution provider out there is not something you can replicate for every customer. So when you put that effort in, you need to be sure that what you are delivering is replicable, and that you have the ability to fulfill new orders in the same way and at the same quality.

Doing this requires real focus. The hardest part of that focus is the strength to say no to business that is not part of that focused plan.

That same ability to respond quickly and to adapt, is a state of mind that can also create impatience and an intolerance of anyone who seems to be a barrier to achieving results today. Thinking, reflecting and analysing can feel like a luxurious impediment to real progress, rather than an enabler.

At Digital Islands, we understand this kind of situation, and work with you to achieve clear progress towards short term results and a rapid return on investment, in parallel with the development of a go to market strategy that defines who your sweet spot customers are, and how you reach them.

Our aim is to run a dual track approach: assisting with planning, research, and the validation of business propositions in order to define and plan a repeatable sale growth strategy; and in tandem – and as an integral part of the research – provides on the ground sales, marketing and business development activity that will generate leads and revenue.

This does not mean results will be delivered in weeks. You have got to be realistic… it always takes months, and depending on the value of contracts or the complexity of the proposition, it can be many months. But activities do not have to be linear, or have strict inter-dependencies. As long as you business is open to listening, and enters the market with a willingness to listen, adapt and respond to valid feedback, then the prospects are high for creating a brilliant winning proposition, with a clear, repeatable and scalable business model.