Do you want to improve your chances of winning consultancy contracts at ADB? Here is some practical advice assembled by ADB’s North American Representative Office gleaned from several Canadian and European companies that have successfully bid on consultancies funded by International Financial Institutions (IFIs).

Invest in the effort. Dedicate staff to your efforts and undertake thorough market research on the sector, countries, potential partners, and competitors. There is a wealth of relevant information in ADB’s Business Center. Keep across business news from ADB by following us on Linked In. Maintain a database of experts whom you can call upon to include in a proposal. Register on consultant platforms, such as ADB’s Consultant Management System. Always closely track new opportunities on the websites of IFIs  and private subscription services.  Opportunities are posted all the time, sometimes with only a short period before the closing date. It may be worth establishing a field presence through a local or regional office. Make sure that you have effective administrative, coordination, quality-control, and decision-making processes that support the pursuit of IFI contracts. Build and maintain relationships with key players in the area you wish to consult in.

Be patient and selective. It’s important to accept that success is unlikely to come overnight. The processes around consultant recruitment consume time, and the field is very competitive. Many companies develop a long-term strategy of at least 12 months when they begin to engage with organizations like ADB. A realistic objective might be to win one contract during that period. Focus your efforts and don’t respond to every consulting notice – choose to apply only where you see a good fit. It is a mistake to dilute your attempts to secure contracts. Check out ADB country business operations plans to see what projects are in the pipeline – projects that will require consultant recruitment.

Prepare quality proposals. It’s important to read the bidding materials closely and learn what criteria will be used to rate proposals. Before you bid, make sure that you have the necessary skills and experience for the job in hand. When you learn of a new or likely opportunity, line up external experts before your competitors do, this can sometimes make the difference. Be sure to follow the application requirements closely and customize your proposal accordingly. Your proposal should speak to your ability to deliver on the specific contract requirements and highlight unique or innovative features that set your bid apart from others. Brainstorm and critique your draft proposal internally to improve it before submission. If you don’t win a contract, ask for feedback on what you could have done better. Ensure that you have a process for incorporating feedback into the next proposal.

Background research. If a new consultancy is advertised in an area where the IFI has previously engaged a consultant, try to find out whether the client liked the performance and approach of “the incumbent” or will be looking for something else in the new round of recruitment. Do include strong, relevant references and excellent CVs in your proposal.

Work with local partners. One way to strengthen a proposal is to collaborate closely with local partners. They possess valuable knowledge about their country’s business culture and practices, regulatory environment, key players in the market, and how the local economy works. Capable, credible partners can greatly strengthen a bid, and in some cases are absolutely vital to success.

Perform at a high standard. Commit to high-quality deliverables and follow through. Your reputation and standing are on the line once you win a contract. A strong performance will put your company in a good light the next time you submit a proposal. Make sure that there are good internal communications between those implementing projects and the business development team.

Network. It is worth visiting the IFIs that you intend to target. Major ADB sector events, such as the Asia Clean Energy Forum or the Transport Forum present excellent opportunities to network and a chance to meet with government officials, ADB project staff and sector leaders about trends and country-specific details. ADB’s annual Business Opportunities Fair is great for meeting other companies and relevant ADB staff. Companies in Canada and the United States can also reach out to ADB’s North American Representative Office in Washington D.C. which regularly briefs firms individually, or at business opportunities programs. European business can contact ADB’s European Representative Office in Frankfurt. Japanese companies can liaise with ADB’s Japanese Representative Office in Tokyo.