Once your proposal is submitted several things can happen. The worst of those is that your proposal is disqualified for one reason or another. Let’s hope you are always careful enough never to let that happen, but if it does happen you will resolve never to let it happen again.
Here are some other things that can happen:
- You will be thanked for your interest and told that somebody else is the winner. If this happens you should always ask the customer for a briefing on why you lost. Assuming the briefing is granted, you should come well prepared to ask and record the answer to every relevant question. Your customer may not be allowed to answer some of them, but you should ask them anyway unless you are told not to by the customer. The idea is to get every available scrap of information about your customer’s choices and why they were made, and also about what your competitors did and why. This kind of information can be extremely valuable for guiding your internal research and development and your future proposals. Typical questions are:
- Who bid?
- Who won?
- How much did each bidder bid?
- What was the winning technical approach? Why?
- What was the winning management approach? Why?
- How could you have improved your proposal?
- You will be congratulated and told that you won. At some point you will sign a contract and get your project underway. But you still should ask for a briefing, just as if you had lost, and for the same reasons. It is important for you to know what your customer saw as your strengths and weaknesses, and how you stacked up against various competitors. The knowledge gained can also help you manage the project better. If your customer liked something a competitor offered better than what you offered even though you ultimately were the winner, you may want to incorporate your competitor’s good ideas into your project.
- Your customer may attempt a squeeze play. This goes by various names: bid shopping, best and final offer, etc. The most egregious form of it is blatant bid shopping. For example, your customer may say that he likes you or your approach but he has a bid that is 15% under yours and can you come down 15%?
Or, a bit less blatant, he will plead poverty and ask you to reduce your bid by x%.
The U.S. government typically asks for a “best and final offer” in the hope that you will fear for what a competitor might do and offer a price reduction, extra product features, or whatever.
The possibilities are too numerous for us to prescribe general advice to any particular squeeze play, except this: If your proposal was carefully thought out, don’t go into a last minute panic and assume that all is lost unless you make a major concession. That last minute panicky concession could destabilize the project when you win it and cause you problems that echo down through the canyons of time.
On the other hand, it is wise to have a list of minor concessions ready at hand in anticipation of a squeeze play. You’ve already carefully thought them through and have convinced yourself they will not adversely impact your performance of the project.
Chapter 16 Review Questions
- Have any of your proposals ever been disqualified? If so, what actions did you take to keep this from happening again?
- Whatever the outcome of your proposals, do you always try to get a customer briefing to explore why you won or lost? What is the most frequent major reason why you won? Why you lost?
- Have you recently had a customer try a post-proposal squeeze play? What did he do? What was your response? What was the final outcome?