Realism is the Best Strategy
“It's the deals you walk away from that make you rich, as much as the successful deals."
This sentence leapt out at me from a (non-bid-related) book one night . . . and catapulted me into bid strategy mode.
Because I've seen numerous companies insist on investing huge resources in a bid they didn't have a chance of winning. And most times that bidder and its senior management team knew it . . . deep down, at least.
They knew their pre-sales engagement was inadequate (or non-existent). They knew their insider knowledge of the client or procuring organisation and/or their understanding of the project and its background was insufficient. They weren't even sure who they were really up against, or the competition's standing with the prospect. They were aware of many other knowledge gaps they'd left it too late to address by the time the EOI / RFP / RFT was released. And - sometimes - they couldn't put their hand on their heart and say they believed their company could do the best job or provide the best overall value for the client.
But still these keen bidders insisted on going through the resource-draining motions of submitting a Response. And at the predictable outcome, there were numerous disappointed and demoralised staff members to console, all of whom now had to peddle furiously just to catch up with the responsibilities they'd put on hold during the all-consuming madness of the bid production period (which usually was frantic because, most times, they were playing catch-up in their information-gathering efforts).
So why does a company make the decision to enter a contest it has little chance of winning?
Let me give you just some of the reasons:
1) To be seen to be "in the game" because primary competitors are, or are assumed to be, bidding.
2) Their inadequate background/pre-sales research failed to identify a bad fit (that bad fit being the case for numerous reasons e.g. methodology or hard resource inferiority in the competitive sense, or client expectations vs actual soft resource available).
3) The contract is with a high-profile organisation that would look impressive on the bidder's client list and/or represent a valuable reference.
4) "The company needs the business."
5) Unrealistic thinking, plain and simple.
Let's consider each of these "reasons".
To be 'in the game'.
If your competitors have done a better job of their pre-sales research and relationship-building and – assuming they can put together a halfway decent proposal – how will it behove your cause to have your half-baked bid laid out beside theirs in front of the evaluation team?
Failure to identify a cultural, resource, or other form of mismatch.
A poor methodology or resource fit is going to be obvious from the information you provide in your Response. How is that going to make you look?
Firstly, most switched-on evaluation teams don't like wasting their time any more than you're going to have appreciated squandering your own resources.
Secondly, conveying the impression of an ill-researched or unrealistic bidder is not the impression you want to leave with an organisation to which you may want to bid for work in the future (on a project your company is more suited to).
The ‘If We Can Get This One’ syndrome.
The higher you fly, the harder you fall.
If a deal's high-profile enough to "make" you, imagine how quickly it can break you if you do win it and you're not really up for it.
‘We need the business’.
At any cost?
Does it fit with your overall corporate marketing strategy? Is it genuinely taking you places?
How will the contract turn out if you don't really have the resources it's going to take to do the job well and create a happy, satisfied client or customer organisation?
Lack of realism.
See all the above.
There's so much downside and very little upside when you decide to enter a bidding contest you should have gracefully declined. Wasted budget, demoralised staff, compromised corporate image . . .
One simple piece of advice: Be realistic.
As you can see, there's no point in being anything else but.
Think of the opportunity cost in other areas where resources might have been far more profitably invested, and your corporate image enhanced rather than compromised.
Think of the comparative ease of those sales efforts versus the effort of trying to put up a convincing case when you haven't really got one.
Jordan Kelly is a bid strategist, writer and coach/trainer. She is the author of a growing selection of books (including her flagship, 'Think and Win Bids') that help construction industry executives position their organisations successfully for high-value bid wins. Claim your free subscription to her fortnightly electronic newsletter, 'The Bid Strategist', at www.bidstrategist.com