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The business question at top of all our minds is, how much proposal volume will we see in 2014? Study of proposal market patterns over several years and our own month-by-month sales records from the past 15 years provide insight into this question.
Looking Back, Federal Proposal Market in 2013
Business in 2013 was slower than in 2012 at all proposal consultant agencies known to OCI. The volume of 2013 business at OCI was down slightly compared to 2012. As far as we know, business at all other proposal consultant agencies was down farther. Figures we have heard in networking with significant competitors include business that was 14%, 17%, 25%, 35%, 40% and 50% lower in 2013 than it was in 2012. The market was slow enough that most proposal consultants experienced abnormal amounts of time on the bench. A few consultants left the industry, while others worked some in areas other than proposal services to augment their income. Many businesses, especially DoD contractors, had layoffs and austerity programs due to the drop in federal business.
A critical question shared by all proposal professionals is: How many proposal releases will we have in the coming quarter? Will proposal activity / business be slow, moderate or fast?
There is a high probability that the dollars spent on contracting this fall will be less than last fall. This is because we had a grace period last fall when the start of sequestration was delayed. This fall the planning across the government is for budgets with sequestered dollars. And the fall timeframe will likely transpire with a continuing resolution (CR) and spending at the sequestration level.
Now that the appropriations have been passed for about 6 weeks, the period of fast proposal activity / business is coming soon. Most agencies have realigned their plans IAW their appropriations, and RFP releases are beginning to increase.
Business Volume during the Next 5 Months
With less than 5 months left in FY 2013, proposal business will likely be fast by late May. And it should continue to be relatively fast during the rest of the fiscal year. This is because the volume of procurements pushed to the right exceeds the negative effects of the sequestration. And agency procurement offices need to process as many of the postponed bids as their bandwidth will permit before end of fiscal year.
Nearly all companies that submit proposals for government contracts have to hire proposal consulting services. This is the most economical way to do it, because the cost of maintaining enough in-house personnel to handle peak workloads is simply not cost effective. The consultants help with the overflow work at the times of peak activity. Every company has to make a calculation as to what is the most cost-effective combination of full-time personnel and consultants to handle the proposal workload.