Episode: 217 |
Will Bachman:
Expert Networks:


Will Bachman

Expert Networks

Show Notes

In Episode 213, Will Bachman discussed how to source experts for interviews – either using an expert network or by doing the work yourself.

Listener Gary C. asked if consultants should sign up with expert networks as the one to be interviewed.

This episode answers his question, in three parts:

  1. Will your expertise be useful to the people who are asking the questions
  2. Are you likely to get selected for an interview
  3. What are the costs and benefits of joining as an expert – so is it worth your time

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Will Bachman 00:02
Should independent consultants sign up with expert networks? Today’s episode is a response to that question from a listener about Episode 213 when I shared some tips on how to source experts for interviews, and I discussed the expert networks, GLG alpha sites and third bridge and how to use them as a customer. This morning listener Gary c wrote me, I enjoyed your latest Unleashed Episode 213. on how to source experts for interviews, does it make sense for independent consultants to apply to be experts on those platforms? That is to be the ones being interviewed and not be the interviewer. Gary, thanks for your kind words. And for your question. Let me break my answer down into three parts. Number one, will your expertise be useful to the people who are asking the questions? Number two, are you likely to get selected for an interview? And number three, what are the costs and benefits of joining as an expert? So it is worth your time? Okay, on question number one, would your expertise actually be useful to the people who are asking the questions? Maybe broadly, think of two types of knowledge or expertise, there is no how the knowledge of how to get things done. And there is no what knowing actual facts and content. Everybody has some combination of those two types of knowledge. Generally, the value a consultant brings is more heavily weighted to the know how bucket, a great procurement consultant will have skill on how to run a procurement process, how to draft a request for proposal or RFP, how to negotiate deals, how to consolidate, spend and manage demand. And this expertise can be often applied across a wide range of categories across a range of industries. The director of procurement at a mid size conveyor belt manufacturing company, who has been in that role for 10 years, dealing with the same products and the same vendors month after month, there’s a decent chance that that director is maybe not as fluent with the most sophisticated procurement techniques and processes. However, that director of procurement probably has very deep knowledge of all the players in the conveyor belt industry, the reputation of each company that makes the fabric and each company that makes the rubber and the pros and cons of each product and how polite the salespeople are and which ones ship on time and which vendors are growing and which ones have an elderly owner that is likely to sell because his son isn’t interested in joining the family business 90% of the time, the clients of the expert networks want the know what kind of knowledge of that director procurement and not the know how knowledge of that procurement consultant. The clients want to understand a particular industry or particular company or a particular product, they may want to talk to customers who have had used a particular product or service or been have been the one responsible for selecting that product or service for their firm. Certainly, some consultants will have that know what knowledge generally those are consultants who are focused on a particular niche within a particular industry that describes you, then you may have the type of knowledge that expert network customers would find valuable. Question two is, are you likely to get selected for an interview? If you have not held industry roles and you have only been a consultant, then the chances are significantly reduced. In Episode 213, where I discussed how to source expert interviews, I talked about defining the target population of possible experts. Usually that target population is defined as people who currently hold or recently held a particular role at a set of companies or companies that meet a certain definition. An example might be the client is a PE firm considering making an investment in a digital marketing company and they tell the expert network. We want to talk to VPS of marketing at consumer packaged goods companies with revenues in the 1 million to $1 billion range, who have selected an email marketing platform within the past two years and who considered HubSpot as one of the possible solutions. Now, you might be a marketing consultant who knows all about HubSpot, and has helped a dozen companies decide what email plot marketing platform to select but Even though you have the knowledge, the know what the client is looking for, the expert network is going to screen you out. Most expert networks have some platform where you can classify all your knowledge for them, and indicate your areas of expertise. And on some types of projects, the client may tell the expert network, hey, just get me experts who are the most knowledgeable on this topic on HubSpot, for example. And perhaps in that case, your name will pop up and you’ll get a call. In many cases, though, if you don’t have the specific executive experience they’re seeking be don’t fit one of those predefined populations, you won’t make it through the screen. Number three, question three. What are the costs and benefits of joining as an expert? Is it worth your time? First, let’s talk about the costs. None of the networks that I know of charge you to become a member, so there’s not a financial cost. One cost though is the cost of your time, it takes some amount of time just for the initial signup process, you’ll probably need to go through a compliance training and ticket test, you’ll need to create an account and enter all your experience, I call that a one hour time investment more or less. And then there’s the cost of your time every instance in which you get pinged for a possible interview. This can be a bit frustrating, since most of the expert networks don’t have a mechanism to learn about you over time. They’ll send you an email or text letting you know of a new opportunity. And then asking a few screening questions. You’ll get through the few of the questions. And then as you let’s say, the revenue of your current firm and you select less than $50 million. And you get the answer. Sorry, based on your responses to the qualification questions, you are not eligible to participate in this client’s project. Now, one might think that on the next project that requires that you work at a company with revenues, more than $50 million, this network will not reach out to you because you just told them that your firm’s revenues are under $50 million. But in most cases, you would be wrong. The expert networks typically don’t do a good job of capturing that info from the screening and using it to screen you in the future. Although obviously they should, because they would bother fewer people. They train a lot of people not to bother responding because they’ve Cried Wolf, one too many times, after getting screened out 345 10 times a person just stops clicking the link. And of course, you don’t get paid for all that time that you spend going through these screeners. Then let’s say that you get through the screener questions, often the expert network will want to have a quick call with you. So you do that call, which is again unpaid, where they tell you about the project and you explain your expertise. The expert network presents your bio to their client, and there’s a decent chance that you don’t get picked, even if you meet all the screeners. And you probably won’t get an explanation as to why not. It could be that the client needed five calls for a specific population, and you would have been number six, then there’s your time involved going back and forth to schedule the call. Then after the call, there’s your time investment in following up with the network to get paid. Some are excellent about making this seamless, and others not so much. Then there’s the hassle of including this income and your income tax filing. And short the time investment is non trivial. Second, there’s the potential cost of the trust of your clients. Presumably, you’ve signed a nondisclosure agreement with all of your clients. So if you’re signed up to do expert calls, where is your expert interview, his knowledge coming from? It is certainly possible to be completely ethical, and not divulge any confidential information and to respond to questions based on public research. You’ve done conferences you’ve attended and so forth, or to sanitize information. So that is still useful but doesn’t reveal any client confidential information. Nevertheless, there is the optics to consider. How would your clients respond if they know that you are doing expert calls? In some cases, they may be totally fine with it. It might even boost your credibility but think think this topic through okay. The benefits of doing expert calls. Number one payment. Okay. How much can you get paid for an hour call? It’s supply and demand, depending on how rare is your expertise and what is the demand for your expertise. With most expert networks, you have the chance to set your own rate perhaps with some guidance from the expert now. Work. Of course, if you set it too high, the network may not present your bio to the client. Typically, the expert network charges their client, a flat rate per call, and your honorarium comes out of the expert networks fee. So, if you demand $1 more, that extra dollar comes right out of the expert network’s margin, you should talk to peers to find out what is typical for someone with your expertise. pretty typical amount for a one hour call is in the 200 to $300 range. Isn’t that unusual to charge up to $500, if you have particularly valuable insights, perhaps you’re a former employee of a company, you’re no longer under NDA of a company that several PE firms are bidding on, that would be valuable. I haven’t heard of folks charging more than $600 per hour through an expert network. The money is certainly nice. It’s like someone buying you a really nice dinner for you and your significant other for one hours worth of work. But for a lot of people, the money is not the only driver or even the primary driver. benefit. Number two, it just feels flattering that someone is so interested in what you have to say. And it feels good to be helpful to someone. And while that sounds very non-capitalist, it’s true. It’s nice to have someone asking you about something that you know, and listening very carefully, and taking notes. So much so that some experts in these networks don’t even bother taking the money, they select an option that some firms have of directing the payments to a charity benefit number three, raising your visibility with investors, which might lead on to some kind of more substantial consulting arrangement or even employment. In some cases, a PE firm will interview a bunch of executives while doing due diligence on a deal. And if they find someone who really knows what they’re talking about, they’ll go back to that executive for multiple calls, or even engage that expert onto their deal team. The client typically needs to pay the expert network, some kind of conversion fee to engage an expert directly in this way. And then if the deal goes through, the PE firm might put that expert on the board, or install the expert in an Interim Executive role, or even a full time role. I wouldn’t count on getting a job this way. But for senior executives with the right profile, it is a way to get in front of an array of investors at the right time in the right industry. Benefit number four. Hearing this the kinds of questions that smart people are asking will teach you something about what is going on in the industry, and about what trends may be hot, or about what companies just might be acquisition targets, or about what other enterprise software products you should think about buying for your company. Some people would do these calls for free, just for the industry Intel that you can reverse engineer from the questions. So let’s say that you’ve decided that you’ve thought about the costs and benefits and you want to be an expert. Here is how to sign up. You can apply but it isn’t a sure thing that the expert networks will accept you GLG Gerson Lehrman group is pretty welcoming on their website, but with offsides and third bridge and guide point, those that don’t roll out the red carpet for perspective experts who want to join. Partly, it’s that the type of people they want as experts are usually not the type of people who go out proactively signing up with an expert at work to get paid to be interviewed. Let’s see. So GLG GLG calls their experts, council members. If you go to the GLG main website, which is G LG dot i t and click on council members, you get to right to the page to apply for alpha sites, which calls their experts advisors, go to their website, alpha sites.com. And that’s a LPH a SIGHT s.com. and scroll to the bottom where it says advisors learn more. And then scroll to the bottom of that page where it says contact our advisor relations team and click Get in touch. And that pops up an email window where you can send an email to advisors at alpha sites.com. Easy as that. For third bridge, I couldn’t find any place on their homepage to join as an expert, and they call them specialists third bridge specialists. But on their help page, there’s a link. How can I become a third bridge specialist? I clicked on that link and the answer is get this if you have extensive experience in your field, we would love to hear from you to express your interest in working with us. Please fill out the form here and we will be in touch. Did you find it helpful? Yes or no. Now, at least on my screen, there is no hyperlink in this text, there’s no obvious place to click, have like, there’s no link, please fill out the form here. However, if you hover over the word here, as in, please fill out the form here, that turns into a hyperlink to their general helpdesk page that as how can we help you today, where you can submit a ticket, and from the drop down menu of what best describes you, you can select perspective specialists. So they’re not exactly encouraging you to apply. But presumably, if your expertise is in demand, your Help Desk ticket will get routed to the right person, and you might get an invitation to join. To become an advisor with guide point, go to guide point.com. Click on advisors, and then scroll down. And there is a sentence at the bottom of the page that says if you are interested in consulting and think your expertise would be valuable to our clients, please contact us. So that’s it for this short episode of Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. If you have a perspective on expert networks that I’ve missed, drop me a line I’d love to hear from you. 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. Every week I send out an email with summaries of each Unleashed episode, transcripts of each episode, and often some bonus material. If you’d like to receive this, send me a note at unleashed@umbrex.com and I’ll make sure you get added thanks for listening

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