A business owner has two options when engaging consultants: they can either outsource the proposal work entirely, or have consultants augment your business development team. Typically, there are several types of situations when you should hire proposal consultants:
- You are new to priming competitive government proposals or really large and complex quasi-government commercial proposals, and you would like to start the right way.
- You have no or limited in-house expertise in winning proposals, especially in winning proposals of significant size, scope, and complexity.
- You absolutely must win a specific proposal your future depends on, and you are not confident that your proposal team has had the right kind, or enough experience, expertise, bandwidth, or win record to bring the win home.
- You are on an aggressive growth curve and have to keep winning to make the projected growth numbers, and your current business development staff may quit if you keep burning them out.
- You have a surge in requirements where you have to get more proposals done than your team has the capacity to produce with a winning quality multiple RFPs that are perfect for you to bid on drop simultaneously.
- You do not have in-house subject matter expertise required in addition to proposal skills to write certain technical approach sections.
With that said, you have to ask yourself whether your need is for short-term targeted augmentation of resources, or you are planning to keep up with the pace of business development activities. It is usually more beneficial to hire in-house personnel instead of using consultants when you have a predictable and steady number of small or moderately sized proposal efforts you bid on all the time, and you are not growing aggressively. If you are just starting out or tend to go after a handful of large contracts, with downtime periods when you would not need large business development or proposal center staff, it is much more beneficial to hire consultants.
If you are just starting a business development organization, you can hire consultants while you are searching for in-house staff. The way to start your organization is to hire two people with multiple sets of skills to handle one moderately sized pursuit at a time. You will need a combination capture/proposal manager and a combination coordinator/editor/desktop publisher/graphic artist. Your technical staff that works on programs can serve as technical writers. Beware of burning out your in-house team and be ready to bring in consultants if they appear to be overwhelmed.
As your business grows, be prepared to bring in more business development people, and bring in more proposal consultants to support the surges in between. Also, understand that you can grow a lot faster if you put together a process by which you can hire consultants almost automatically whenever you run short on resources rather than passing up great opportunities to bid. This is how most Fortune 500 companies do it.
My upcoming posts, among other topics, will address the tradeoff considerations between hiring proposal consultants and in-house employees, and the nuances on contracting with consultants. Stay tuned!