Are you worried about hiring a federal business development consultant who might be all “Rolodex” and no results? Here's how not to get burned.
This guest post is by Steve Pimpo a Principal at Double Eagle Consulting, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business that provides consulting, sales and relationship management services to companies looking to grow in the federal market. He is a former “Big 4” consulting senior executive and Navy Supply Corps officer, and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy .
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You've heard the horror stories about companies who spend their limited resources hiring an expensive federal business development consultant who talks a good game but fails to produce. They trumpet their military rank or experience and contacts in hopes that you will be impressed enough to pay them a lot of money. When they don’t produce, you feel like you've been burned as they have pocketed their handsome retainer and moved on. Meanwhile, your competitors are growing their businesses and winning new work, while you are still smarting over the money you have wasted…
Oftentimes, small- to medium-sized companies looking to increase sales in the federal market will hire a business development consultant to augment their staff. These consultants are usually former senior government or defense executives or retired military officers who have a Rolodex of contacts that they can call on to help companies meet prospective clients and teaming partners with the hopes of developing new business. Some of these consultants are very good and effective. But some are not. Here are some tips on what to look for when hiring a federal business development consultant so that you don’t get burned and waste your business development budget on someone who is not going to provide a good return on your investment.
- Competency. Hire for competency not just access. Does this company/person have actual sales and business development experience or are they just someone who knows a lot of people? Do they understand your business? Do they have any experience running a business? Have they had success in the past? Can they introduce you to potential clients and teaming partners that you wouldn’t have been able to meet on your own? Do they complement your team?
- Statement of Work. Make sure that you have a clear and agreed upon statement of work. This should include details of the services to be provided, fees, timeframe, terms and termination instructions. Set up a fee structure that you can afford and works best for the unique circumstances of your company. Do you both understand and agree to the expectations? If someone won’t sign a statement of work, steer clear!
- Accountability. This business development consultant works for you. It is important to communicate on a regular basis and get into a rhythm. What are they looking to accomplish between meeting times? Have they done what they said they were going to do? You need to give specific guidance and feedback as well.
- Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCI). This should be investigated prior to engaging in a contract with a federal business development consultant. Senior executives in government (and industry), along with retired military officers, almost always have restrictions placed on them (for a period of time) dictating who they can and cannot do business with. Make sure you understand these restrictions and the associated timeframes. You don’t want to be paying for someone to help you develop business in an area where they are legally prevented from engaging.
- Trust. This is an important element to consider. People buy from and want to do business with someone they trust. They will pay more for a trusted brand. You are getting ready to bring an outsider into your organization. Do you trust them to be honest with you? Do you trust them with business sensitive information? Do you trust them to truly put your company’s best interests first? Do you trust their judgment? Do you trust them to represent your company well? If the answer to any one of these is no, then don’t contract with them regardless of their former rank, position or contacts.