Even the largest business development team doesn’t have every skill set available at every time. What’s more, most teams are often working slightly under-resourced at any time: open positions take a while to fill, competing external deadlines force us to juggle tasks, and we’ve all jumped onto proposals that are at least a bit outside our technical or donor expertise.
Do you often find you have go-to consultants for certain tasks like technical writing but rarely consider looking outside your team for most other tasks? Here are four common needs that you may not have consider outsourcing to free up members of your team.
CONSULTANTS DO THAT!
1. Seasoned Expert
You have the staff time available to put together a proposal, but not the expertise. Maybe it’s a new donor your team doesn’t have experience with, or maybe your writer and proposal manager are still learning the ropes.
Contracting a consultant doesn’t always have to be for a major role—we’ve seen numerous examples where it’s helpful to a client to contract 8-12 hours with a consultant. While the hourly rate is often higher than someone who you’d contract to fill a larger role, they can cover gaps in your team’s experience in a shorter time. While your team still does the legwork, you can benefit from the consultant’s experience in color team reviews or serving as sounding board for the proposal team in occasional check-in meetings.
2. The Between-Proposals Task List
We know your team has a list of tasks you’re definitely going to tackle…when the proposal workload lightens up. Let’s be real: business development results in a feast-or-famine kind of work schedule, and when you team finally does get some down time, they’re not super motivated to tackle that task list.
There’s a right fit out there for a consultant to tackle any task on your list. And, they will have the benefit of being able to give it their full attention. Imagine finally getting things crossed off that list, like updating a capability statement library or conducting landscape analyses. Plus, you can get creative! What kinds of projects benefit from an outside perspective? Try having a consultant who’s familiar with your organization regularly interview your team for post-proposal lessons learned and have them report out twice a year with recommended changes to your proposal process.
3. Facilitating Your Technical Design Process
For organizations that excel at what they do technically, the design stage gets half-assed a surprising amount. As a technical writer, sometimes I end up informally leading this by having to interview technical experts until I have pulled out a good sense of the design. Or there will be a workshop, but it’s dominated by a couple of people or it’s thrown together at the last minute by someone who’s simultaneously trying to fill another proposal team role.
Bringing in an outside specialist to facilitate your technical design process ensures this step gets the attention it deserves. While facilitators need to be familiar with your sector (and the donor formats), they should not be technical experts. Their role is to ensure all essential voices get to weigh in on the process.
4. Teaching New Topics and Skills
Anyone who has sat through a boring training knows that teaching is about more than being knowable in the subject yourself. Putting on an effective training requires an understanding of how adults learn in addition to the time to fully prepare material.
Not only does an external trainer have background in pedagogical methods and the time to devote to fully preparing an organized lesson, they can also bring in specialized knowledge in a topic your team is interested in, whether a specific donor, soft skills, or an interactive introduction to the proposal cycle for junior staff. Effective learning should also be fun and interactive—so think of trainings as an opportunity to break from the usual dull routine!
We love working with clients who think of us as a natural extension of their team. Working on projects beyond technical writing and proposal management is also a great way for us to get to know your processes and team members better and develop a good working relationship for those times when you need quick support to ramp up quickly.