Building Winning Consulting Proposals During Economic Uncertainty

For the consulting industry, major market events have laid the groundwork for ominous upcoming QoQs. 

When dangers of the COVID-19 spreading waned and confirmed cases dropped in Q2 2022, the Big Four financial advisory firms (Deloitte LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young, and KPMG) went on a hiring spree. It’s predictable behavior when, in 2021, more than 47 million workers quit their jobs while 32% of Americans switched their careers, ushering in a wave of unemployed workers and the Great Resignation.

However, the Big Four are now experiencing the consequences of their own actions—and worse, they are making headlines. Since February 2023, KPMG has laid off 700 employees and Deloitte approximately 1,200, while Ernst & Young plans to trim 3,000. While PwC has not endured any workforce cutbacks (and, in fact, plans to hire 30,000 new employees for their India arm) there have been talks of the firm implementing “silent layoffs.”

As we navigate economically volatile times, consultancy firms are looking now more than ever to streamline work processes, save time, and cut down on unnecessary expenses. This is especially true of casting nets for new opportunities and reining in clients through proactive proposals. 

Below, we dive into how top consulting firms are weathering the economic downturn, what it takes to build proactive proposals that draw in business, and how market intelligence tools can benefit the process.

Bloated Consulting Firms

Hiring frenzies towards the end of the pandemic seems to have been a choice many large-scale consulting firms made, as the Big Four are not the only perpetrators of the industry-wide layoffs. 

This past March, Accenture—the Fortune Global 500 tech consulting company that raked in $61.1 billion in revenue last year—announced that it would cut its workforce by 19,000 employees (2.5% of its workforce). Similar to McKinsey, lots of admin people got flushed in the headcount.

McKinsey has experienced rapid growth over the past decade, as its workforce has ballooned to almost 47,000 from 28,000 just five years ago and 17,000 in 2012. Consequently, the firm is now restructuring how it organizes its support teams, a.k.a workforce reductions and moving people into new roles. The total cuts will amount to about 3% of McKinsey’s workforce or 1,400 roles. 

Deloitte also confirmed that it intends to relieve personnel from its U.S. workforce, with as many as 1,200 positions (about 1.5%) affected. Deloitte’s Risk and Financial Advisory division is expected to see a larger proportion of layoffs—about 3% of that company’s staff—due to decreased merger and acquisition activity.

consulting proposals economic uncertainty
In the AlphaSense platform, the mention of “layoffs” increased by 158% over the past 12 months within the Financial Industry.

While it’s not the first approach consulting firms are taking, layoffs are ubiquitous within the industry. Ultimately, preserving capital will be top-of-mind for leadership as new and ongoing macroeconomic and geopolitical events take their toll on revenue. It’s a reality that is unfolding in earning calls found within the AlphaSense platform. 

“We’ve seen some layoff announcements among some of the big 4 firms and even some white shoe strategy consulting businesses at least reported…If we were on the verge of going bankrupt, of course, we would consider layoffs, but that is not our instinct here. We have performance conversations, particularly with the senior people to make sure that they’re aligning their business with the markets going ahead and all that. But I’m not sure that it ever makes sense to optimize a quarter by laying off junior people who you just hired.”

– FTI Consulting, Inc. | Q4 2022 Earnings Call, Feb. 2023

Building Proactive Proposals

Writing consulting proposals is often a time-consuming and tedious task. However, done correctly and with the right tools, carefully crafted proposals can easily and quickly secure new clients in your chosen target market. Request for Proposals (RFP) often fall short of accomplishing this, as they are simply a “reactive” response to a request for proposals from a prospective buyer who is evaluating their options.

On the other hand, proactive proposals anticipate a potential client’s motivations, map out their goals and pain points, and frame responses to achieving and overcoming them. By wielding vivid, precise, and active language, your proposals won’t waste words on tangents or devote entire sections to copy-and-paste verbiage from a proposal topics library.

Without effective proposals, your experience and expertise often go overlooked—leaving your appeal to be watered-down to your consulting fees price. Proposals are a vehicle to share your insights and how they can influence your prospective client’s thinking. When done well, a proposal can show a professional how serious you are about doing business with them. The last thing you want is for a potential client to get hung up on your fees because your work failed to reel them in. 

Ultimately, surviving economic volatility and staying ahead of your competition starts with compelling, confident proposals. To produce work of that caliber, you need to stay agile, do more with less, streamline your processes, and focus on your productivity—or rely on a tool that can help you accomplish all of this. The firms that thrive in the most unpredictable of times leverage technology to find the insights they need fast, source material that inspires confident decision-making, cut down on time spent sorting through useless info, and maximize cross-functional synergy.

Here are three easy ways to take your proposals to the next level: 

Discover Exclusive Insights to Win Big

Using consumer-grade search engines or public-facing documents alone isn’t enough to truly understand what your client is focusing on. In today’s business landscape, so much information is available to competitors, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. You need access to exclusive content sets to remain confident in your strategy, know their market position, and make informed decisions on your approach.

consulting proposals economic uncertainty

With this material, users can gain a complete view of any company, industry, or market trend of interest—in seconds. Further, you can verify and validate your findings by comparing insights from disparate places, rather than over-relying on a singular source. However, the most value these content sets it helps you understand the why behind the insights, so that you can build a well-informed strategy and be more prepared for the future. 

Ensure You’re Working With Timely Information 

As the amount of available information grows exponentially, it becomes increasingly complicated to conduct competitive and market intelligence. As a result, most of your time and effort is spent on an endless cycle of information-gathering, rather than analyzing and taking action on valuable insights. 

consulting proposals economic uncertainty

While access to premium, exclusive content is a sure-fire way to build proposals that speak to your clients, you need to know the information you’re relying on is the latest. When you rely on an all-in-one research platform like AlphaSense, you can be sure that you will always be informed of emerging market trends and events. 

With Automated Monitoring, AlphaSense provides automatic real-time alerts on companies, industries, and topics that are of interest to you. AlphaSense also allows you to customize your dashboard and create company watchlists so that you are always in the loop and ready to move swiftly and proactively.

Streamline the Writing Process 

It can take time to write a strong, tailored proposal for your customers—with a majority of it spent finding the insights you need to win over a client. Investing in a solution that eliminates searching for the right information from the subject matter experts you’re looking for can be a game changer. According to Salesforce, 65% of high-performing sales organizations automate the repetitive parts of their proposal process.

consulting proposals economic uncertainty

Within the AlphaSense platform, users have access to our premium AI-driven features, including our Smart Synonyms™ and sentiment analysis. Smart Synonyms™ identifies the search intent behind your query and surfaces all keywords that are relevant to your specific search goals, effectively eliminating the manual task of searching for one thing in a multitude of ways.  Sentiment analysis is an NLP-based tool that identifies shifts in a text’s tone and subjective meaning, allowing you to read between the lines of a document and glean the info you need, faster.

The Solution: Market Intelligence Tools

A market intelligence platform is one of the most effective tools consultants are using to their advantage to write strong, confident, and deal-closing proposals. Winning starts with having information others simply do not have access to and that can ultimately increase the quality of your proposal. 

By discovering nuggets of info from AlphaSense’s rich content universe (aggregating documents from over 10,000 trusted business resources), our clients have been able to identify acquisition targets and TK. 

With AlphaSense, it becomes that much easier to find an expert via real-time and aftermarket equity research. Within our Wall Street Insights® collection, users have access to both from global investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and Bank of America. Ultimately, broker research can lead to signals that forecast collapse (e.g., SVB Banking) by using a topic in the marketplace.

The process of “getting smart on a company” is also streamlined with AlphaSense. Users can quickly build business or sales plans just by looking at companies at prospective client’s company major filings, events transcripts, press releases, and more—allowing consultants to identify a problem that their firm can solve. 

AlphaSense helps professionals increase the quality of their proposals and, effectively, their win rate by doing more with less and focusing on producing effective and confident proposals.

Are you ready to take your strategy to the next level?

Start your free trial of AlphaSense today.

Tim Hafke
Tim Hafke
Content Marketing Specialist

Formerly a writer for publications and startups, Tim Hafke is a Content Marketing Specialist at AlphaSense. His prior experience includes developing content for healthcare companies serving marginalized communities.

Read all posts written by Tim Hafke