The key to winning any contract is to submit a set of proposals which are considered by the customer to be better than their other options. As we all know, better can mean different things to different customers. For example: lower cost, less risk or more value. The first is fairly objective but the other two are subjective and judged not only in relation to the customer’s unique set of circumstances but also their personal preferences. In many cases these more subjective elements are not explicitly set out in the RFP or ITT documentation.
So how is a bidder supposed to know how to craft a proposal or tender which hits all of the right notes? The answer is to obtain a thorough understanding of the customer. Everyone knows that! However, not many bidders do it and this is why so many proposals and tenders are wide of the mark.
Why don’t bidders put more effort into obtaining a greater understanding and more intelligence? I think the main reason is that it requires a greater investment of time, resource and money per opportunity and that there is no guarantee of success. This is driven by a fear of failure.
What do most bidders do? They cut out this essential part of business development and go for quantity rather than quality of bids to pursue on the basis that if we bid eighteen projects we may end up winning two contracts. After all, if we miss out on the first few we can sharpen our prices and pick up some orders on the later tenders. This is one of many mistakes that bidders make see our free report The 23 Biggest Mistakes that Bidders Make for the other 22!
The scary alternative is to triple the effort in bidding for six projects and winning three.
Both strategies require the same investment but the latter is 50% more successful. To make it work, you need to be more selective in the clients that you target and the opportunities you pursue and bid for. This requires discipline and an ability to politely say no. You also need to back your judgement and hold your nerve. This is not easy when your boss is breathing down your neck demanding more orders.
Research, key account plans and bid-no bid processes all help but there is no substitute for going to meet a potential customer, asking great questions to gain a greater understanding, positioning your organisation properly and building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. If you do these things right, you are well on the way to winning.
Which strategy represents the biggest gamble? Throwing the dice at a large number of opportunities and relying on the law of averages or rejecting what seem to be reasonably good opportunities or waiting for the right one to come along where you know your relationship with the customer gives you a competitive advantage and at least a 50% chance of winning? Is it a no brainer? I think so.