There is a cost to developing bids, with no guarantee that your company will win. And yet, it’s a necessary part of doing business. When you invest the time and effort into a request for proposals (RFP), you naturally want to maximize your odds of winning. It’s worth some extra effort to give your company the best chances of success.
Following are five features that winning bids have in common:
- Attention to detail
Take time to read the RFP thoroughly, even if you’ve done a thousand bids before. Prepare a response to each item listed and be clear about start and end dates. Don’t assume anything. If something is not clear, call the owner and ask for clarification. Before you submit your bid, have someone reliable backcheck for spelling and math errors. Demonstrate that you have the required skills and workforce to do a good job.
Each project has unique features to include in the bid, but there are many aspects that are commonly used. For those common items, develop a set of standard answers that are well composed for use by anyone who works on bids.
Your bid cover letter should describe why your company is the right one for the job. Try not to come across as just another contractor. Emphasize what makes your company better.
- Valid subcontractor estimates
If your subs try to play you against the clock with their estimates, there is an element of trust lacking in your relationship. Nurture trust with your subs so your bids don’t suffer from delays and haggling. You may even want to pre-negotiate some tasks in advance to save time later.
- Concerns up front
Owners put jobs out to bid because of government contracting requirements or because they want to find the best firm at the best price. However, sometimes the lowest price doesn’t necessarily win the job.
An owner needs a reliable partner to work on their project. They may be concerned with your ability to complete the job in a professional manner, on schedule and within budget. This will manifest in certain bid elements, so anticipate and address those potential issues in your bid. There are online bidding dashboards that allow bidders to monitor job-related questions from contractors and owner responses.
The more you know about your competitors, the better you can position your firm to stand out compared to them. Don’t try too hard to be just like the competition. Represent your company as an equal where it applies, and then highlight what sets you apart. That could be your awards, certifications, track record, accreditations, satisfied customers, and experience with specialty building products (i.e. sustainable) that the owner may specify.
If there is nothing beyond price that sets you apart, being the low bidder on every job can come back to bite you in the profit center.
After you address all the bid requirements, you can add your insights about the proposed project. A savvy owner will be interested in your experience and ability to deal with disruptions and solve problems when they arise. Include your thoughts about alternative approaches that could result in less expense or a shorter schedule.
It’s also helpful to keeping notes on your submittals to refer to next time. Whether you win or lose, analyze your bid for its positives and negatives, and note what your competitors did well. You can improve your odds next time with these insights.
A structured approach to construction bidding is important to your success. With proper attention to detail, reliable subcontractor estimates, addressing concerns up front, differentiation, and insights, you can have more winning bids.
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