Just make it easy

How to get top consultants to work with you on USAID proposals and projects.

A big part of a business development team's job is to secure comittments from busy and highly sought after people to write and manage proposals, prepare costs, or recruit personnel. Whether you are courting internal staff, consultants in your close network, or a consultant networked through a partner like Keylime, the same general rules apply--you've got to make a case about why working with you is a good idea. And how you ask makes all the difference. You want to make it easy for someone to say yes.

Want to check on their interest or availability? Everyone loves to be sought after, so they'll be delighted to hear from you. Just make sure your initial outreach contains complete information. If you are inquiring about a proposal role, include the full name of the proposal, the anticipated release date, estimated LOE (it's ok to say this is up for discussion if it is), and anything else you know (like a link to the pre-sol or USAID Forecast entry). Most consultants will not commit to vague requests, so if your inital outreach is incomplete or unclear all you are doing is adding friction to the process by requiring the consultant to respond asking for more details. And that is not really a great place to start. Consultants respond almost instantaneously to requests they get on Keylime Marketplace, and it's because our process includes all the key details they need to be able to respond quickly.

Want to chat about the role? Perfectly fine request, and tech writers in particular often want to get additional information before agreeing to an assignment. Just be sure to use some kind of smart calendaring– either send a link to your own calendar or use the consultant's calendar link. If you are using Keylime, every consultant's profile has a one-click 'set up a call' button. You are still in an exploratory stage of the relationship, so it's important to demonstrate that you are respectful of consultants' time. A lot of connections get dropped in the scheduling process and it's no surprise– your team may come off as disorganized, chaotic, or indecisive if you can't get a meeting scheduled and those are red flags for consultants.

Want them to say yes? Follow up promptly. You should be prepared to follow up no later than 3 days after a call or initial outreach. Any later than that and you can assume someone's availability has changed, and probably not in your favor. We all know that that it can be dificult to make decisions about proposals with incomplete information, but if you have a bias toward action you'll be much more likely to secure the kinds of top consultants you need to win.

Want them to know you are a good partner? Well, if you are doing all of the above, you are already off to a good start. But there's more, of course. At Keylime we have 2-side reviews of every single assignment completed. If you work with Keylime we can showcase your strengths to prospective consultants. If you are working on your own, you'll have to show (not tell) just how great of a partner you are. Do you have adequate internal resources? Is your approach to proposals collaborative, productive, and thoughtful? Does the team value the input of outsiders? Do you pay your consultants in full and on time? Everything that you do is a demonstration of whether you are a good partner for consultants, and trust me when I tell you they are paying attention and comparing notes.

Talented people are in high demand, their time is limited, and they can be picky about who they work with. Make working with you an easy decision.

Susanne Barsoum

Susanne Barsoum

Susanne is the CEO of Keylime and before that was the Middle East new business director at Chemonics. She is an expert at leading and writing USAID proposals and is also an angel investor.