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By Bob Lohfeld
Bob Lohfeld (www.Lohfeldconsulting.com) is CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group.
Proposal activities in the government market generally peak in the summer months. The requests for proposals that we have been waiting for all year seem to drop at that time. To handle the peaks and valleys in proposal workload, get additional proposal expertise for must-win procurements or get a fresh view on how to present their solutions, companies reach out to proposal consultants. When you need help from proposal consultants, here are some things you should keep in mind.

A typical proposal can take a dozen or more people to develop over a 30- to 45-day period. During this high-paced activity, you can supplement your own staff with consultants. Proposal consultants include proposal managers, volume leads (technical, management, past performance, and price), subject matter experts, technical writers, coordinators, graphic artists, editors, and production specialists. Each specializes in a different aspect of the proposal-development process, so before you start looking for proposal consultants, determine what skills you need to augment your proposal team.

Engage the consultant early. Proposal managers should be selected and engaged before RFP release. Working tasks pre-proposal, before RFP release, is one of the best ways to raise your win probability and level the workload that occurs when building a proposal. Though a desktop publisher may not be needed until the last week or two of the proposal, engage them early to get the best ones and allow ample time for them to get up to speed on requirements. If you give consultants a running start at their assignment, you’ll end up with a better end product.

We consistently misuse the term proposal manager because we call every person who manages a proposal a proposal manager, without regard to their management experience or proposal expertise. We recognize skill levels in other management categories, but unfortunately, when it comes to proposal managers, we don’t differentiate their seniority and just call them all proposal managers. Things to look for when selecting your proposal manager are:

Low cost does not prevail. If your company is hiring a consultant, presumably it’s because you need someone with real experience and expertise. This is the time to pay for someone who has the qualifications you need to get the job done (and win the proposal). The old adage “You get what you pay for” is never truer than with consultants. Determine exactly how much experience you need, and pay for the person with that experience.

Once you select your proposal consultant, have an expectations-setting meeting as the very first thing you do. It is important to set expectations early in regard to job responsibilities, personalities and working styles, and lines of authority. Clearly communicate the consultant’s roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships to the proposal team. The consultant needs the real authority to set schedules and meetings and obtain resources with the complete and transparent backing of the sponsor.
Don’t undermine the consultant by ignoring requests to provide requested resources, facilities, and equipment, and don’t set meetings for the proposal team without discussing with the consultant first. Support the consultant in his or her leadership role. With the right consultant and your company’s support, everyone should see the proposal moving on a clear path to victory.


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