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6 Better Ways to Work With Proposal Consultants

Looking for someone to help you “do” your proposal is usually the wrong approach to take. Hiring a consultant to help may be a good idea, but you still need to take ownership and need a better plan than expecting someone else to take the whole effort off your hands. For starters, only you know your client and your offering. The best way to give this information to a proposal consultant is to write it down. That’s why the vast majority of what proposal writers do is actually re-writing.

A consultant can lead you through the process, but you still need to be involved. A consultant can write the final draft, but you’ll need to give them something to start from, a lot of information, and some direction.

Instead of asking them to “do” the proposal, consider asking them to help you do one or more of these:

  • Make sure you are ready at RFP release. A consultant can help you implement something like the Readiness Review process that we recommend in our MustWin Process documentation.
  • Create the outline, and the compliance matrix, and plan the content. A consultant can point you in the right direction at the start of the proposal and help you make sure that your plans incorporate everything that they should.
  • Write a draft based on a Content Plan. The Content Planning methodology that we recommend in our MustWin Process documentation is a good way to make sure that you provide all the information that a consultant needs to write the proposal narrative.
  • Prepare the quality criteria to measure the proposal against. If you are “doing” the proposal yourself, but want to make sure that you're “doing” it right, a consultant can help you define a set of quality criteria that you can use to assess your proposal against.
  • Help validate the quality of the draft proposal. A very efficient way to use a consultant is for you to write a draft, but have the consultant review it and make recommendations. If you are trying to minimize your cost by minimizing the number of billable hours, then this might be the best use of them.
  • Format and produce the finished copies. Using a proposal consultant to do the formatting and production is expensive. You may be better off having them oversee the production and provide quality assurance, but using a regular temp to do the production.
Each of these activities has specific deliverables. They are also finite in scope, making the budget easier to estimate. They also make it easier to use the consultant’s expertise in the areas where you are the weakest.

You can use a list like this one as the basis for the statement of work when using a consultant. It will help set expectations so that you have a better idea what you are going to get. It will also help the consultant make more accurate estimates.

If the consultant is one of the Premium Members of our website or a participant in our Partners Program then they have access to our process documentation, which defines these activities in much more detail and provides the forms you need to implement them. If you are both members then you will both be on the same page regarding expectations. Otherwise you will need to interview them in much more detail. Another way you can use the list above is to help with that interview, by using it to discover how the consultant approaches each area of activity.

When you ask a consultant to “do” your proposal, you place your complete trust in their skills, knowledge, experience, and judgment. I prefer the quote that President Reagan liked to use: “Trust, but verify.” This is also an important check on yourself — if you don't give the consultant the information they need to write a winning proposal, you shouldn't expect that whatever they "do" will win.


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