Will Bachman 00:02
On today’s show, I’m going to share tips on how to source expert interviews. Hey, welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, the first global community connecting top tier independent management consultants with one another, and I’m your host, Will Bachman. One of the best ways to learn about any company or industry is to talk directly with an expert, so you can ask exactly the questions that you need answered. In Episode 75 of this show, I shared 11 tips on how to get the most out of those interviews with experts. In today’s episode, I’ll provide my advice on how to get those interviews set up in the first place. I’m first going to discuss how to work with firms that will do this for you and set up those interviews for you. And then I’ll talk about how to source expert interviews on your own. Okay, so first off, there is a whole industry that exists to help you set up interviews. The three largest firms are Gerson Lehrman group usually referred to as GLG, alpha sites and third bridge. And then there’s a long list of smaller firms that are trying to capture a piece of this market. When you work with one of these firms, the process goes like this, you email or call your point of contact and explain your project, give them some context, talk about the type of questions that you need an expert to answer and the type of person that you’d like to interview. It helps if you can get specific, something like I’d like to speak with former employees of any of the following six companies that were director level or above in an operational role. And you may also provide some screening questions that the expert network will use. For example, do you have exposure or familiarity with company XYZ, then the expert network will filter through their existing network to identify those who match your criteria, and reach out to them to see if they’re interested to speak with you. If they can’t find sufficient experts in their existing network, they may go out and source new experts. But as you can imagine, that requires more work on their part. So they have an economic incentive to start with their existing network. When they custom recruit a new expert for you, they have to reach out to new people, convince them that business scam, explain the business model, get them to go through their compliance training, which can be extensive, and set them up for payment. And all of that takes time and effort. So that the expert network, find someone either in their existing network, or a custom recruited new expert, and then they present you with that person’s profile. Sometimes they’ll be blinded with the name removed, but with some of their background, and you decide which experts you want to speak with. Then you provide your availability to the expert network. And the expert network will schedule a phone call, usually a one hour call. Usually this is done with some kind of dial in so you don’t get the direct contact info of the expert. They don’t want you to call them directly for a second or third phone call. If you realize the expert does not in fact, have the expertise on the topic, you can usually cancel within the first 10 minutes and you don’t have to pay for the call. Some of the networks have an option where you can pay extra to get a transcript of the call the expert network, that service is this whole service is incredibly convenient. And it is heavily used by the top consulting firms, particularly on due diligence projects. And by private equity firms and hedge funds. It can be pretty expensive. However, the rates vary depending on how much volume firm does with the expert network. But you know, roughly list price, you’re looking at something in the neighborhood of 1300 to 15 $100 per one hour phone call. Additionally, the larger expert networks will not serve a client unless the client is willing to commit to an annual spend of something like 50 or 75 or $100,000 per year. So even if you are willing to pay the list price, you may not be able to hire them, even if you even if you can afford the list price for for, you know a small number of calls. So the other approach is to source interviews yourself. And the good news is that this is a very doable thing. I’ve sourced at least 500 interviews for my own projects over the years and here. I’m going to Share my playbook. The first step again is to begin with the end in mind to create your interview guide, create a list of all the questions that you want to get answered. And then think about what sort of experience a person would need to be able to answer those questions, you may well, very well determined that there are several different populations that you need to work with. For example, let’s say that you’re trying to understand the market landscape of the scrap metal industry in the United States, you might decide that you need to speak with executives at companies that buy scrap metal, and within those companies, if you care about the dynamics of how the deals get done, you might decide that you want to speak with the procurement officers who actually go out and source the scrap metal. Or if you care about more about the technical trade offs between different qualities of scrap metal, you might want to speak with the manufacturing engineers who specify the material. And you might want to speak with executives at companies that produce or that collect scrap metal. And perhaps there are brokers who buy and sell scrap metal. Perhaps you want to speak with consultants who serve this industry, or economists who have studied it, or journalists who work at a trade journal or a former regulator. If there are regulators of scrap metal, I don’t know. And you may decide that you care about different geographies. So in our scrap metal case, perhaps you realize that you need to speak with experts in both the United States and in China to fully understand the US market. So you do all this thinking, and you come up with several different populations that you want to interview. At this stage, you may want to get your client to sign off that you’ve identified the right set of populations. And then for each population, you want to set a target for how many interviews you want to get. It’s a bit risky to do just one call for a given population, since you may end up with a dud interview, or an outlier, or you just get someone who’s not poorly informed. But generally, after doing three, or four or five interviews within a given population, you start hearing a lot of the same things repeated, doing 10 or more interviews within a given population would usually be overkill for qualitative interviews. To specify your population and make the research actionable, it’s helpful if you can specify the specific titles and specific companies of interest, like we talked before when working with the expert network firms. In some cases, it’s perfectly legitimate to interview current employees of the companies on your list. In other cases, depending on the questions that you want to ask, it may decide the interviews need to be former employees. So you come up with your list of parameters. The next step is if you’re going to search on LinkedIn, which is the primary means we’ll talk about some other ways to find people. But let’s say you’re going to search on LinkedIn to identify the individuals who meet those parameters. You can do this yourself. But I recommend that you outsource this phase to a researcher that you can find on Upwork. On Upwork, you can find researchers with a LinkedIn Sales Navigator account that offers additional filtering options beyond a basic LinkedIn account. And those researchers will generally charge you under $10 an hour, I recommend that you set up a shared Google Sheet with the following columns for the Upwork researcher to fill out. And I think a Google Sheet here is better than Excel. Because you can both access it you can monitor real time, the progress of your of your researcher, and you can be working on the same spreadsheet and don’t have version control issues. So the columns that I would suggest you include would be first name, last name, current employer, current title at current employer, past employer of interest. So if you’re looking at I want someone who worked at company XYZ, that would go in that column, the title at their past employer of interest, their LinkedIn URL of the individual, the population ID or name that you’ve given to that population. So you may have four or five, six different population types that you’re going after, and the name of the upward researcher who sourced that row of data. That would be useful if you’re doing a big project and have actually divided the work up across multiple Upwork researchers helps you keep track of each one’s productivity and performance. And Upwork researcher I found can usually fill out about 20 to 30 rows of data per hour. So each name on the list will cost you somewhere between 25 to 50 cents. Once you’ve got this list of LinkedIn, you Or else, then you would reach out to the people on LinkedIn. A very general thumb rule is to expect if you’re doing pretty well, that about 10 to 15% of those you reach out to, will eventually agree to speak with you. Some industries that could be a little lower or higher, that is an average range. So if you need to do 10 interviews, you’ll need to have a population of about 100 names on your list. There’s two ways to reach out on LinkedIn, you can either send an inmail, or send a connection request. If you have a premium business account on LinkedIn, you get 15, free in mails per month, but and they let you accumulate up to 90. And then after that they expire. So you may have 90 if you haven’t been using them, and you have a premium business account. If you have a bunch of email credits, you can use those, they tend to work a little bit better than connection requests. And if you have run out, but you have funds, you can always buy in mails, they’re $10 each, or you can send a customized connection request. In that case, you’ll have to limit your message to 300 characters, you definitely want to send a customized connection request and not just the generic one. A typical connection request would be something like first name, comma, would you be willing to share your insights with me on the scrap metal industry in the US happy to compensate you for your time. If interested, you can book time with me here, and then insert your calendly link. And then give your phone number, your email address and thanks, and your name. Some people may accept your connection request, click on your calendly link and schedule an interview with you. Those people are awesome. The others will require follow up, you should create an email template. And when someone accepts your LinkedIn request but doesn’t schedule time with you send them an email that says something on the order of thanks for accepting my connection request on LinkedIn. As I mentioned, I’d really love to hear your insights on the scrap metal industry, it’d be very helpful for some research I’m doing. The topics I’m looking to cover include X, Y and Z. I’m happy to pay an honorarium to compensate you for your time. If you are interested, you can book time on my calendar with this link. If you aren’t interested, please let me know. You may want to follow up. If you don’t hear back from this person in three days or so often people will respond and participate. If you follow up two or three times on that Google Sheet that the Upwork researcher created. Going back to that, you’ll want to add some additional columns to track all the outreach that you are doing column headings to add status of reaching out on LinkedIn. So you might put in their sent connection request on the date, or send in mail on the date. And if they exceed you or you change that to you know first degree if they’ve accepted your connection request. Next column would be email address. So if the person accepts your connection request and now your first reconnection, go in there to their contact info, grab their email address and put that on your spreadsheet. Next column, status of scheduling interview, you might put, not interested if they’re not interested, scheduled or completed honorarium amount, enter here, the amount the person requests as an honorarium. There’s two approaches to honor to doing the honorarium if you know market really well, you may decide that you know, the going rate for a 45 minute call in this industry is $100, or $200, or whatever. And then you offer that amount in your initial outreach. Or you can say, we have the funds to pay an honorarium to compensate for your time, let us know whatever seems fair to you for a 45 minute call. I like this approach in general, because there may be someone that you really want to speak with, who wants $500 for a call, and for that person, you’re happy to pay $500. But if you announce that you’re paying $200 for the call, that $500 person is most likely to just ignore your request. They aren’t likely to respond Hey, I’ll do it, but I charge $500. And in some cases, a person where you’d be happy to pay $200 will ask you for only 50 bucks. So you in some cases, you save some money. Next column in your spreadsheet, PayPal address for payment. I generally prefer to send people a payment via PayPal. Most people accept it. It’s quick, it’s easy to track and show receipts and Usually you as a consultant, of course will need to show that you need to send the payments. And you’ll get reimbursed by your client for this out of pocket expense. So it’s a good idea to make sure your client is agreed to that ahead of time. And pay pal is an easy way to track all the payments, neck comm for your Google Sheet status of sending payment, it’s easy to kind of lose track when you have, you know, five or 10 or 15, or 20 interviews going on who you’ve paid who you haven’t. So I have a column just says, you know, I’ll say sent via PayPal on date. If you’re creating summary notes from the calls, you could have a column it says status of notes pages, and then you put in done when you’ve done them for that interview. If you are going to sanitize the name of the interviewees, and not provide the actual name of the interviewees to your client, then you should have a column for interview ID number and assign them a number. So that you actually have a master key that links the number to the name of the person. If you are creating a transcript of each call, then you could have a column that says status of transcript. For transcripts, I use rev.com rev.com. And that’s $1 per minute. For a transcript created by human, I use rev.com. For the transcripts for this podcast. rev.com also has an AI version, which is only a few cents per minute, and it’s okay for rough use. But it’s not yet high enough quality that I would provide it to a client. If you want a transcript, obviously, you’ll need to record the call. Of course, you ought to ask the person’s permission before recording a call. In some states in the United States, you are legally allowed to make a recording with just one person consent but it’s you know, it’s sort of ethical and and nicer to ask the person’s permission. Usually, given that you are paying the person, I found most experts are okay with you recording the call. If you promise not to publish the recording online and explain that you just want to be able to share the recording with a colleague or that you want to make a transcript or you want to be able to go back and listen to something that you that you didn’t understand the first time. Typically, other team members and clients don’t have the time or patience to sit and listen to full recordings of a bunch of phone calls. It could be very powerful, however, to edit together key quotes from multiple expert interviews so that your client can hear them firsthand. If you do get transcripts made, you can go into each transcript and just highlight the quotes you want pulled together. And then provide all of those files and the transcripts to an audio engineer who can pull out all those audio quotes and put them together for you. transcripts are also helpful in situations where the client has some questions about your paraphrases or summary version of the interview and wants to read the exact words of the expert on a particular question. The downside of recording an interview is that the expert may hold back a bit and be a little bit less forthcoming, since they don’t have 100% confidence in who may eventually listen to the conversation. And alternate to doing a transcript is to have a really great note taker join you on the call, so that you can focus on asking your questions. And the note taker can capture key quotes verbatim and make near verbatim paraphrases of the entire call. I mentioned that in my initial outreach to the expert, I include a calendly link, I discuss how I use calendly. In Episode 73 of this show, the tool is a huge help in scheduling expert interviews. It avoids all the back and forth of asking for that person’s availability. And then you know by the time they get back to you, you’ve booked a time so you have to go back to them. And then you have to send them a calendar invite just takes care of all of that. You ought to create a special calendly link just for this project that you’re doing. And you can add custom questions such as what honorarium would you charge for a 45 minute phone call. And we normally pay the honorarium via PayPal. If you have a PayPal account, please provide your PayPal email address, where we will send the funds. The default commonly asked for just the name and the email address of the person. So another custom question to add is what phone number can we call you? I gave a sample text of a connection request above you don’t want To send more than 30 to 40 of those connection requests per day, which is a tip there. If you send more than 30 or 40 connection requests, LinkedIn may flag your account and limit your ability to send more connection requests in the future, unless you actually know the email address of the person, which makes it a lot harder. The alternate I mentioned is sending an inmail. There you get a longer message and probably a better response rate. With the longer space available in an inmail, you can provide a bit more detail on the topic areas you’d like to cover. In an inmail, you might mention explicitly that you’re not seeking an any confidential information that is protected by a nondisclosure agreement. Let’s see on payment. It’s good practices in the payment via PayPal right after you conduct the interview. So the experts not waiting around wondering if they’ll ever get paid. And you may want to have a follow up with some of those people. So and that’s another tip at the end of the interview, always ask if the person would be willing to do a follow up call. If you have more questions, and ask if they could introduce you to anyone in their network, who may be able to provide a useful perspective now that they know what questions you’re asking. Some of my best interviewees have come this way. And it saves you all that effort of the outreach if you can get a personal introduction from someone you’ve already spoken with. I focused mainly so far on sourcing experts via LinkedIn. But there are of course, some additional approaches that are worth considering. Number one, look up industry conferences. Sometimes the website for a past conference will list the presenters and may even include their presentations. Sometimes those presentations will include the contact info for the expert who gave the talk. Or if they’re from some consulting firm, you can easily find them with a quick Google search. If you reach out to that expert, and you say you found their presentation at the XYZ conference insightful and you want to ask some follow ups about the industry response rate is typically very, very good, usually 50 to 80%. Number two, if there happens to be an industry conference taking place during the course of your project, then consider going in person. People may not be willing to talk for an hour during the conference since they’re busy networking there for a reason. But often you can get a business card and ask right there if they’re open to a call after the conference. And when you’ve made that in person face to face connection, a high percentage of people will be willing to do a call. Number three, search on for Think Tank articles at places like the Brookings or the cato institute or other kind of thing, take the email addresses for the think tank writers is usually right there on the document. And they’re usually willing to speak for an honorarium. Also, search for academic papers. If you search the academic literature on a topic and find a paper that is spot on to what you’re doing, contact the author and see if they’ll speak with you. Number five, find experts who’ve been quoted in the media, particularly in trade journals, you can probably find contact info with an internet search for that for that expert. Number six, call retail locations to set up an appointment. So this one may be necessary with certain populations that are not that active on LinkedIn. For example, I did one project where we needed to interview managers of locally owned lawn and garden stores. In that case, we just had to dial for dollars and call these lawn and garden stores that we found basically in the yellow pages or with a Google search, and then asked to speak with a manager. And you can hire someone on Upwork. To do this for you as well. We just had to call up and ask to speak to the manager at that store and see if they’d be willing to schedule some time with us for the call. So I hope this has been helpful. I’d love to hear any tips that you have that I missed. Also, each week, I send out an email that includes a summary of each Unleashed episode, a link to download the transcript and bonus features. And one of the bonus features that you’ll get if you sign up is a draft expert tracking spreadsheet that includes all the columns that I mentioned earlier in this episode for that Google Sheet. If you’d like to be on this list and get those bonus materials, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org that’s umbrx.com Hey, thanks for listening.