If you own your own business, you know what it feels like when every item that requires your undivided attention demands that finite reservoir of focus all at once. But what if multiple government sales opportunities you’ve been tracking all coalesce simultaneously, and your existing personnel are not able to effectively run capture on these prospects?
What options do you have to continue with this forward momentum if you’re strapped for resources?
Here is what you’ll learn in this guide:
Before You Get Started: If you’re interested in a particular section, you can click on any of the chapter titles above to skip to it directly.
Have multiple capture opportunities arrived simultaneously, or are you bidding on a highly competitive government contract? You and your team may not be able to offer each capture the necessary attention, resources and/or personnel expertise, which could lead to lost opportunities.
Consider bringing in outside help, rather than pushing your team’s abilities and resources to the limit, if you find yourself in this situation. A capture management consultant will:
- Support your capture management strategy;
- Assist with proposals;
- Provide insights on clients and competitors; and
- Ultimately boost your chances of winning the contract.
The key to success, however, is knowing when you should hire a capture management consultant. Because when it comes to bidding to win federal contracts, timing is everything.
Look at Your Pipeline and Predict Your Needs
Too many capture management teams wait too long to call a consultant. Then, once the consultant arrives, he or she is left to play catch up with the process — plans may not succeed, even with the consultant’s extensive expertise, business intelligence and contacts.
When you identify must win opportunities over the next year or two, you must look at your pipeline and forecast where needs exceed staffing. This decision requires analyzing past business trends and potential upcoming contract opportunities. Outside help will come in handy, especially if you believe you’ll have overlapping opportunities that will put your team at max capacity, since spreading yourself too thin can hurt more than one opportunity.
By hiring early in the process, you then have time for the consultant to get familiar with your team and build a relationship with the customer.
Consider Your Resources and Ask Yourself: Can You Do This Fairly Well or Really Well?
There is an old adage that says you can do a lot of things fairly well, but only a few things really well. When bidding for government contracts, ideally you want to make sure every opportunity has the best possibility of winning. After all, you’re spending money chasing it, and you know there’s more money to be had if you get it. Examine whether employees have the skills, resources and connections to handle all capture opportunities.
A “well-done” bid necessitates managing your sales team successfully so that you know when temporary consultants are required to share the load and offer expertise. When that surge in business slows down, you can go back to just relying on your internal sales team.
The Money Problem
Of course, tight cash flow may prevent you from hiring a capture management consultant, even if you’ve determined your workload will be high and you don’t have the staff to handle it all. Before dismissing the idea, know you can cut down costs by hiring part-time and using the consultant only when needed. Also, understand costs typically go down over time as your team’s collaboration activities with the consultant become more effective.
Additionally, given the ebbs and flows of the business, some owners mistakenly believe existing personnel will be able to handle a capture sufficiently. After all, a capture management consultant can be a big expense, with a rate of 200 dollars per hour being quite common.
Holding out hope that your team can handle it all is risky. A backup plan is also important, in the event a member of your sales team leaves for another job, since bringing on another full time member takes time.
So, Should You Hire a Capture Management Consultant?
There are significant advantages to hiring a consultant, although the expense involved may turn you away. Instead of focusing on that high hourly rate, think about how hiring a capture management early provides needed support and ups your chances to win a big government contract.
In the end, paying a consultant for help early on could equal the greatest return on investment for your company. Remember, consultants normally work part-time (one or two days per week), so the overall cost of the consultant is not really as much as it seems.
When you reach capacity with your capture management team, you can’t pursue new opportunities. Your employees are already maxed out working with existing clients. If you want to continue expanding your business, you will have to find a way to increase capacity.
How can you address the need to finish more work, on time? You have a few options:
- Do nothing. The surge in opportunities will eventually subside, but you won’t gain any new opportunities during that surge.
- Hire a new employee. Another full-time person would allow you to handle the increased workload and manage new opportunities more easily, but once the surge ends, then you may be overstaffed.
- Bring in a consultant. You can get the expertise you need when you need it and not have it when you don’t need it.
Waiting Out the Work
Doing nothing is one of those decisions that makes a real statement. If you’re at capacity and choose not to expand, that means you are choosing to keep your business at its current level. You don’t want to grow. Not every business owner longs to be a Fortune 500 company. Waiting it out should be a well thought-out strategy, not a way to avoid a wage and labor problem.
Getting Onboard with Growth
If you do want to continue to expand your business, doing nothing isn’t an option. You need to be able to respond to new opportunities. That only leaves you with the choice between a full-time employee and a consultant. So, what are the pros and cons of each option?
Hiring New Staff
Onboarding new staff comes with a relatively high price tag. Before you ever get to salary negotiations, you might have to pay a recruiting fee to find prospects. Winnowing through the list of potential future members of your team is serious work that takes more of your very valuable time.
Once you have a few selections, you need to look at the total cost of a particular employee. Salary costs reflect a portion of the total expense of employment. Add on the costs of the benefits package, vacations, stock options, etc., and you could be looking at an additional 40 percent outlay, a significant expense.
Another thing to think about is what happens if the level of work ebbs? You’ve just brought on a new employee, but you don’t have enough work to keep them busy. Every hour spent twiddling thumbs is a waste of corporate dollars. Paying an employee for a year of work when you only need them for a few months is a very expensive way to do business.
Free Worksheet: Real Costs of Full-Time Capture Executives vs. Part-Time Capture Management Consultants
Capturing a Consultant
When you know that the level of work is likely to ebb and flow, a consultant might be the best option.
- No training needed. When you hire a consultant, you should hire someone with extensive industry knowledge who needs little to no training before demonstrating productivity.
- Only pay for the help you need. If you pay a full-time employee $100 an hour, the total cost is likely to be $140 or more. For a consultant, you might pay $200 per hour. The difference lies in the number of hours for which you pay. With a consultant, you don’t need to guarantee a specific number of hours each week. Your consultant might come in for one or two days a week, and you only pay for that time.
- Get more experience for your business. Hiring a full-time person with more than 20 years of experience would be a lot more expensive than finding someone with five years. With a consultant, you can get that experienced personnel without spending the total cost of the salary – and you often get more work out of a consultant in the same number of hours.
Adding Value with a Consultant
When you choose to go the consulting route, you save money by avoiding the upfront and ongoing costs of an employee. You also give your business the room to expand. A capture management consultant is not always the right solution, but when you don’t have enough work to justify a full-time hire, working with a consultant is a labor expense strategy to explore.
Working with capture management consultants can help you prepare for new business opportunities that your current staff simply can’t accommodate. When you predict a future surge in workflow, you need a plan and skilled employees in place to handle the increased workload. Consultants offer you the flexible and expert hours you require, often at a fraction of the cost of a regular, full-time employee.
The challenge lies in finding the right expert for your business: Which capture management consultants are the best fit for you and your company? As you search for your next consultant, be sure to ask every interviewee these six questions before signing a contract.
1. Identify Expertise
What steps will you take if we assign you this capture to manage?
Industry best practices clearly define the steps needed to take a prospect from tracking to award. You’ll want to make sure your prospective consultant is familiar with the steps and knows how to implement processes strategically.
You’ll also want to discuss the scope of their potential duties. A standard capture management process goes through several stages, including: tracking, qualification, pursuit, capture, proposal, submission and award.
If you need help all along the chain, you want to be sure your consultant can add value at each stage.
2. Improve Repeatability
How will you keep track of the information you learn and collect?
Landing the deal and winning an award is one step toward your company’s financial success . If you can’t repeat the process, you can’t depend on a consistent revenue stream. Identifying data tracking methods with your prospective consultant is a large factor in ensuring repeatability for future capture activities. It can also help with training existing employees about the subtleties of capture management.
3. Discuss Past Experience
What size deals have you managed in the past that are similar to this one?
Before making any hiring decisions, look at a prospect’s resume. This question goes into a little more depth about experience. Not only are you asking about their history of landing profitable deals, you’re also asking them to draw parallels that will help define the shape of this deal or future opportunities.
4. Define Results
How much time do you expect will be required to maximize our PWin?
Before getting into specific timelines regarding capture and award, you might want to talk about what PWin means to the candidate and how they arrive at a number. Putting objective measures in place is an essential part of generating a repeatable and successful capture process.
As part of any consultant interview, you’ll want to know how many man hours you’ll pay to get your desired result.
5. Finally, Explore Expectations
What would your first month working with us look like?
Often, the difference between a successful capture management consultant and a waste of time starts with expectations. By asking about the first month, you both get a chance to define what work you expect to accomplish and how.
Expert consultants might know government contracting inside and out, but they haven’t worked within your company’s specialty area. Discussing how you expect communication, organization and work to flow in that first month will help you determine how a consultant can add value to your capture management process.
Hiring a consultant can save your company a lot of money on your capture management process, but only if you find the right one. When you hire employees, you have control over how they spend their working day. However, when you work with consultants, they often have more autonomy.
Avoid paying more than necessary for your consultant by being aware of a few red flags you can easily avoid.
1. Inefficient Time Management
Most of the time, when you hire a consultant, you pay by the hour. That means every hour should be 100-percent focused on work for your company. The consultant must be disciplined with how they spend their time and are able to avoid distractions.
Additionally, you need to make sure the consultant is working on the right things. The last thing you want to see is your highly paid consultant tackling rote work that can be done by anyone on the capture management team because you were not prepared with a proper list of work efforts.
Be wary of any consultant who spends more time “researching” and less time nurturing verifiable relationships with real government opportunities.
2. Costly Billing Errors
When you receive the monthly invoice from your consultant, take a careful look at the billable hours. If you only have a record of the consultant on-site for 60 hours that month but the invoice lists 80, there might be a problem. Ask the consultant to document what tasks they accomplished and when they accomplished them to justify all of those hours.
3. Inadequate Summary Reporting
When you get a report that lists a few bullet points and no details, it’s time to take a closer look at your consultant’s activities. When consultants don’t communicate their activities or actions with appropriate detail, it can be a big red flag.
Detail is what tells you exactly where you are in the capture management process and helps determine your next steps. When details are missing, it might mean that you’re looking at a to-do list, not an actual report.
4. Lack of Progress
You’ve looked at your consultant’s invoices and compared them to the reports you receive. Unfortunately, the time doesn’t seem to match the amount of progress. Why is it taking so long to make contact with a prospect? Why haven’t meetings been scheduled with several of the agencies in your prospect pipeline?
When your consultant is spending a lot of time on preparation and not delivering a lot of progress, it might be time to reevaluate the working relationship.
5. Expertise Fails to Manifest
You probably interviewed several candidates before deciding on a consultant. You checked references and asked for information about how they work. You laid out expectations at the beginning of the contract. Your consultant has reams of experience on paper, but that expertise doesn’t lead to actionable meetings — internally or externally.
One of the biggest benefits to working with a consultant is the ability to control the faucet. When the working relationship is no longer beneficial to your capture management process, you can let the consultant go, instantly. There is no unemployment to worry about and you can onboard someone else, as soon as possible.
When you have dozens of government opportunities in your pipeline, you need a capture management consultant who can move things along and develop the opportunities. With the right consultant, you can increase your rewards. But when a consultant doesn’t work out, it’s just a drain on resources.
Government contracts offer a long-term and stable source of income. They are very tempting for most small to medium-sized businesses, but the initial investment required to land these deals can be a big barrier to entry. To tackle capture management, you often have to juggle the option of hiring someone full time or working with a consultant.
Looking at a sudden jump in employee costs before you land the business to support that jump can be nerve-wracking, but there are ways to control those costs. And working with a consultant can be a cost-effective way to handle your capture management.
Comparing Costs: Full Time vs. Contractual
When you’re adding or expanding your capture management process, you have a couple of options. You can hire a full-time employee or bring on a contractor to help. Before you decide, you really need to take a long, hard look at the pros and cons of each option.
A full-time employee will dramatically boost your potential productivity, but that only matters if you have enough work to keep them busy. It’s important to remember that an average compensation package costs well above the negotiated annual salary. Just adding benefits and taxes on top of salary can work out to 140 percent of the annual wage.
Once you figure in additional costs like space, equipment, technology expenses, non-billable hours, etc., the total cost can reach more 275 percent of salary. Of course, in addition to the basic expenses, you’re looking at an extended onboarding period and considerable time invested before the new hire shows any ROI.
The bottom line is that hiring full-time staff is expensive, particularly when you aren’t sure of the level of work available on an ongoing basis.
Hourly, Retainer, Incentives: Keeping Contractor Costs Low
With contractors, the hourly rate can be a lot higher than you would pay a full-time employee. If you would pay a full-time hire $100 per hour, you might pay double that to a contractor. The value proposition comes in when you realize that you control how many hours they work. Plus, you only pay for work directly related to your capture management process. Your consultant never spends time manning the phones, meeting with HR or dealing with filing.
If you only need the extra help for three months, hiring a consultant is a lot like shopping end-of-season sales. You get the same quality at a fraction of the cost. Some businesses recommend only staffing to 85 percent of your predicted need. Contracting out the rest gives you the flexibility to handle sudden fluctuations in the amount of work available.
In addition to controlling the number of hours, you have several options when negotiating pay rates with contractors.
Hourly is only one method. If you need someone to come on board full-time, a retainer model can keep your costs level during that time. If you need to lower your initial investment, you might negotiate a lower hourly and a success bonus for every landed contract. Consultants simply offer more flexibility for your capture management.
Consultants Can Deliver Instant Value
In addition to the added expense control, you should remember one of the other big benefits of working with a consultant — expertise. Hiring someone with the same expertise that a consultant brings to the table can rapidly close the gap in hourly wages. Capture management executives are executive-level employees with the same salary requirements.
Ultimately, consultants cost less than full-time employees in most cases.
Free, On-Demand Webinar: The Real Cost of Hiring a Capture Management Consultant – Is It Worth the Price?
When your opportunities outstrip your resources, a capture management consultant is often the best solution. This position provides key support to help bring all of your in process captures to a successful conclusion.
The capture management consultant can be one of your top assets, especially if managed effectively as a member of your team.
Educating Your New Consultant
Anytime you onboard a new employee–whether temporary or permanent– there’s a learning curve for them, for you, and for the rest of your team. You shouldn’t need to teach a capture management consultant how to manage leads for government contract opportunities; they should already know the process inside and out. What you do need to teach them is how your company handles lead processing and what company procedures you want them to follow. Teach a new consultant:
- How you do things.
- How you want things done.
You’re helping them learn how to handle the workflow as well as how to process pieces according to your company’s standard operating procedures.
Communication Is Essential
Include your capture management consultant in meetings with your sales team. If they don’t know where you’re looking for opportunities and your company’s productivity goals, they can’t effectively shepherd new proposals.
In addition to the information provided at general sales meetings, it is important to arrange regular one-on-one meetings with your consultant to track their performance. What have they already accomplished and what’s left on their to-do list? Also, you want your consultant to have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on what they need from you, as their manager, to be successful. The point of these one-on-one meetings is to ask the questions:
- What can I do to make you more successful?
- What do you need?
When Things Don’t Go as Expected
One of the advantages to bringing a consultant on-board is that you can take advantage of the “at will employment” clause in their contract, should the need arise. You brought the consultant in to do a job. If they fail to perform as expected, cut the contract short and find a different consultant. Keep in mind that just as you can let the consultant go at any time, they can also choose to leave at any time.
Local vs. Remote
At some point, you may find yourself stuck between hiring a local or a remote candidate. For example, you might find a more qualified candidate out of state, but perhaps they aren’t willing to move for a temporary contract position, and/or you aren’t willing to pay for moving or lodging expenses. You might be considering the fact that it is more difficult to measure the day-to-day productivity of a remote consultant than one that works onsite.
Integrating a remote consultant into your existing team is no more difficult than managing remote full time workers. Making your consultant an integral part of your team is a necessity, regardless of their physical location. Conference calls, video calls, in-person meetings (even if only once a quarter), regular emails, text and instant messaging will help keep your consultant on task.
Maybe you can’t say a quick, “Hello, how’s it going,” as you walk through the office, but you can do the same thing using technology. With remote employees, you need to make an extra effort to include them in the team, but the results are often worth the investment. To make sure your remote capture management consultant is on task you need to:
- Put technology in place to ensure accessibility and accountability
- Make sure your consultant knows they are a valued part of your team, regardless of their location.
Getting Value From a Consultant
When you bring in a consultant, you need to make sure you are getting real value from that expense, be sure to implement measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). Measurement processes are important whether working with a consultant or a full time employee. You need to be able to see what they bring to the table, including the value of that product.
Getting Your Capture Management Consultant Started
Once you have an established history and workflow, many consultants don’t need a lot of daily management. What they really need from you is oversight and access to company resources. Educate them about your company and communicate regularly to keep your capture management process moving towards a win.
Government contracts can bring your company a source of consistent income. However, to get the job, you often have to make large initial investments, such as hiring a capture management consultant.
If you want to manage your bottom line to be profitable, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t make sense financially to employ a consultant over the long term. Here’s how to know when it’s time to stop paying for — or fire — your capture management consultant.
Why You Need a Capture Management Consultant
If you have multiple capture opportunities at once, a capture management consultant can give you the added resources to maximize chances of a win. Or, if you are bidding on a highly competitive contract, a consultant can provide you with valuable expertise.
When you bring on a consultant, make sure you regularly discuss expectations. You should be constantly monitoring the value they bringing. And you should be ready to move on when that value is no longer worthwhile.
The Opportunity Is No Longer Urgent
The U.S. government awards about $500 billion in contracts each year. Understandably, competition is tough. Many contract bids simply don’t pan out. Of course, if you lose out on a bid, you probably don’t need your consultant until another opportunity arises.
The opportunity could also have slowed down for some reason or been deferred or canceled. Even if the consultant did a good job, take a break until the opportunity comes back. It makes better financial sense to pay a consultant only when workflow requires the extra expense.
The Consultant Is No Longer Adding Value
You bring in a consultant because you want an expert. Unfortunately, what is promised may not be what you get. It’s important to recognize this as soon as possible and take action.
Consultants are expected to bring value immediately. If they have been with you for some time, and you find that no substantial benefits or contacts have been added, it’s time to move on. Not only is it financially damaging to continue wasting money on such a consultant, but it also could have a negative impact on winning the next government contract if you have a reputation for not offering value to your clients.
You Are Being Billed for Time But Don’t See Production
Consultants aren’t going to be working a typical 40-hour workweek. There are benefits to having a capture management consultant with a flexible work schedule. If you need help at night or on the weekend, they can help. Also, you only pay for hours worked, which saves you money.
However, there is a downside. While you can control how many hours are worked, sometimes what a capture management consultant bills you won’t match the production. Sadly, overbilling is a fact of life in many industries. And there’s always a chance you get a consultant that pads invoices.
If you find that you are being billed too much or paying for work that isn’t being completed efficiently, it’s time to fire your consultant.
Your Consultant Doesn’t Meld With Your Team
Not every consultant is going to mesh well with your team. That’s why it’s important to look not just at skills sets and experience, but also whether a consultant is a good cultural fit and can follow required processes.
Undoubtedly, there will be limits on how much a consultant can benefit your company if they don’t work well with other consultants. Teamwork is essential for any capture team. If you discover that your consultant is not a team player, firing may be best.
If you encounter any of these situations with your capture management consultant, consider looking elsewhere for help. You can’t waste time with someone who isn’t leading your company toward its goals.
When you look for a replacement, have a clear definition of what you need. A good consultant should add value to your entire capture management strategy and process, from black hat reviews and building relationships to drafting proposals. If the consultant does the job that’s asked you should be in a much better position to win the contract.