The following statements will be familiar to many of us;
- “Bid consultants/writers don’t understand what we do and so we’re constantly having to spoon- feed them. It’s just extra work when we don’t need it.”
- “We can handle the bulk of the work ourselves. All we need is someone to come in and review the final submission”
- “Whenever we’ve used external bid writers in the past, they’ve not been cheap and have gone over budget.”
I’ve thought about these statements and, having discussed them with clients and colleagues, I’d like to share my findings with you.
The main reason for a consultant’s unfamiliarity with their client’s business is that they are engaged too late to find out what they really need to know. The immediate focus is on producing copy to meet the deadline, and the more questions the consultant asks, the less time remains. This is often compounded if cost or flashy marketing has led to the decision to use a consultant who is unfamiliar with the client’s industry.
Be smart. Do your homework and engage a consultant early, well before the bid lands. Ask for a free initial meeting so that you can test their knowledge. Once you have chosen a consultant, allocate some time to get to know each other. You may have to pay for this, but you will get the very best value in the long run.
It’s fine to use a consultant for reviewing your own copy. But bringing a consultant in to ‘just do a quick final review’ rarely allows enough time to act upon their review comments or recommendations. Resources become stretched, and mistakes are made.
Think it through. Engaging a consultant in the early review of your answer plans, or first drafts, will add value and give your colleagues time to provide the detailed information that your bid deserves.
If you pay peanuts, you can be 99% certain that you will get monkeys. But higher cost does not always equate to better quality. Bringing a consultant in just as the bid is about to land will result in an unrealistic fee proposal. Similarly, asking for an estimate without providing a clear brief will usually result in an eye-watering fee proposal. Missing information, staff holidays, and your colleagues’ ‘day-jobs’ often waste billable hours and can lead to tension. So, it’s important to define exactly who is doing what, and when.
Plan early. Engage the right consultant as soon as you have made the decision to target a prospect. Remember that bid consultants have usually worked on a range of different bids. Who better to help you to draw up a clear brief and adjust it as more information emerges? Usually, for a relatively small initial fee, they can also help you with early preparation and resource planning. This can lead to efficiencies and a more accurate, affordable fee proposal. Extensions of time can bring their own financial pressures, and so have a contingency plan in place to deal with them seamlessly.
Hit the ground running. By clearly agreeing on responsibilities, requirements, deliverables, working arrangements, timesheets and invoicing, you will ultimately create a collaborative environment, where people focus on the bid, not the bill.