For a government contractor, writing proposals is not an option, it is a business necessity. You can have a billion-dollar business pipeline but the only way to monetize the pipeline is to take action – that means, submit well-written and compliant proposals. Proposal writing is not easy, even for the best of writers. The extremely time-bound process can consume your nights, weekends, and still need the remaining hours of your day. Large companies have entire departments of proposal managers, coordinators, and writers and still use proposal consultants to meet demand. Mid-Tier companies invest in proposal staff of their own and rely heavily on consultants to surge. Small companies often struggle with the ‘hire or outsource’ decision when it comes to proposal support. The biggest myth about outsourcing proposal support is the cost. In this article, we break down the myths behind high-priced proposal management services and give you tips on how to stay within your bid and proposal budget.

Myth # 1: Outsourcing proposal support is expensive

Whether you are a large, mid-tier, or small business you need to keep stringent control over your overhead cost. Outsourcing proposals does not have to be expensive if you use our tips to control the budget. Be wary of ‘100% success-fee’ consultants – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are three tips to make outsourcing proposals affordable:

1. Know exactly what type and level of service you need – Define and document your scope of requirements. Costs get out of control when you do not know or don’t plan for what you want to outsource. If you are a subcontractor and are only contributing to a portion of the entire proposal, you don’t need a full-time proposal manager. The same is true if you are the prime and your subcontractor is going to do all the writing, you may not need to hire a Solution Architect.

2. Hire a professional team, not one consultant – Putting a proposal together requires varied skill sets. Even if you find a single consultant who can help strategize your win themes and format the document and develop graphics, don’t make the mistake of hiring a single person to do it all. Work with a proposal management company that brings a team of specialized people to the project. A well-managed, matrixed proposal management team will not only produce a compelling and compliant proposal but will mitigate your risks of putting all eggs in one basket.

3. Ask for a fixed price quote, don’t pay by the hour – The best way to know your bid and proposal cost before you get started is to draw up an internal estimate of the time and cost of using your own team to complete the proposal. When you outsource, look for companies like ProposalHelper who bring a team of experts at a fixed price – until proposal submission (emphasis on ‘until submission’). You don’t want to be stuck with change requests if the due date of your proposal gets extended.

Myth # 2: Our data is secure only if the consultant works out of our office

The most common demand we hear, especially from large businesses, is the need for proposal staff to work out of their office. The pretext being that it helps with collaboration and discussions. Some companies posit that the only way they can secure their information is if the proposal team is sitting in their building. This age-old myth stems from archaic proposal practices propagated by companies who developed proposal management processes over four decades ago. Your data isn’t any more or any less secure by letting people do their job from where they are. Here are three tips on how to ensure the security of your data when outsourcing:

1. Define your security parameters and have the tools to enforce them – Companies already have a set of security guidelines and best practices. Before you hire a proposal consulting firm (not individual – we hope you are over that mistake), lay out your security requirements in no more than 10 bullet points. Have the proposal company acknowledge and sign adherence to your security requirements. Any professional proposal company that follows stringent best practices should not have a problem accepting industry-standard security requirements. And, as with anything – if you have rules, define your mechanism to enforce them. Provide the right level of access to the right portals to the entire team, including the proposal company so they can do their job without compromising your required level for security.

2. Follow your own security rules – If you are going to lay down the law then it must be followed by all members of the proposal team, not just the consultants. For example, ProposalHelper never emails proposal files as attachments. We use secure, password-protected links to our secure file sharing system. If customers who set the rules don’t also follow the rules, security will be compromised.

3. Check the company’s security certifications – While sharing your security procedures is important, you must also check the proposal company’s own security policies and procedures. Hiring a company like ProposalHelper who has invested in certifications like ISO 27001 will reduce your risk and vastly improve your confidence level in the company’s ability to secure your data beyond the basics. An individual consultant can never give you this level of security.

Myth # 3: We are not big enough to hire a proposal company.

Your company size should not be a determinant of whether or not you hire a proposal company to support your growth needs. Your pipeline should drive the decision. If you plan strategically and minimize reactionary bidding after RFP releases, you will know what resources you need and what you have. Here are three tips to know when to hire and when to outsource:

1. Your bid strategy is evolving – You have a pipeline in early stages, or you are just getting started with government proposals. Especially if you are an early stage 8(a) company , you may not have your dual- track bid strategy finalized. Companies who are in these early stages should not hire their own proposal staff. You will end up underutilizing your staff or making them do things like business development research because you think they are related tasks. Alternately, you may feel the need to keep your employee busy and make them work on proposals without any meaningful chance of winning. All recipes for high turnover of proposal staff in a company.

2. You can afford to hire one Proposal professional – If your budget allows you to hire one proposal professional, you are the right size to hire a proposal company. If you have reached a point in your business where you believe one full- time proposal professional can help you ramp up the number of proposals you submit, start looking for an outsource partner. The benefits far outweigh the cost of that in-house hire.

3. You are ready to work ‘on your business, not in your business’ –  When it comes to growing businesses, there are two areas we recommend you spend your own time on: business development and client delivery. The easiest part to outsource is proposal management and proposal writing. At your early stage, you should not outsource BD or client delivery – the two sides of the coin that directly impact your revenue and need your personal attention.

We will keep sharing more industry experiences, myth- busters, and tips with you. We want you to make the right decisions that best fit the needs of your company at whatever stage you are in. With completely modularized service offerings – whether you just want to start with a compliant outline to full-service proposal writing, we can serve the needs of your company. ProposalHelper has worked on more than 3000 proposals in the last 10 years. We don’t claim to have seen every scenario, but we have seen many. If you feel your company is in a unique situation, contact us and let’s see if we have a solution for you.

Contact ProposalHelper today at 571-535-4707 or via email at to learn how we can help your company set the dual-track growth strategy and writing winning proposals.

Date Published: 09 June 2020
Author: Reena Bhatia, CEO ProposalHelper and BidExecs
Contributor: Joey Carmichael
Publisher: ProposalHelper LLC

Article published by ProposalHelper. All copyright rights reserved. ProposalHelper is a leading Business Intelligence and Proposal Management solutions company headquartered in the Washington DC metro area. Our company is celebrating its 10th year in business. We have supported over 3000 proposals across 11 different industry domains earning our clients over $2.5 billion dollars in contracts.