You Shouldn't Bid or Propose on All Work That Comes Your Way

As a professional consultant there is a great temptation to bid and propose on any and all work  you hear about.  You must become very disciplined as to what you are bidding and proposing and why you are doing so.

Everyone likes to be busy in consulting, contracting and providing professional services. We must be billable in order to be making money.  And this sometimes translates into a bad practice where you bid and propose on things you have no business bidding on.

Wasted Energy, Time, Money and False Hopes
I have seen small companies make proposals and large companies make proposals on things they should not even engage themselves with because they are not a fit. But the mere act of proposing makes one feel like they are working.  A manager once said, "It feels like work, but it's not work."  Don't get caught up in this whirlwind.  You can spend a lot of money and especially time and get no results.  And worse, dilution in the marketplace what you do perform well by the mere act of bidding and proposing on everything.

Two Principles To Ask Yourself Before Proposing
There are really just two principles to follow along these lines. Have you met with the client and his or her staff regarding their needs?  And have you done this type of work before?  If you can answer "Yes" to at least one of these questions you may want to propose.  Of course there are a host of other questions to ask yourself once this is established, such as; "Is this what we want to be known for?" And "Is there follow on work?"  And so on.

So with these two questions, you can quickly surmise that the two ingredients needed for a success proposal come down to "Can you address the client's needs and does the client recognize this?"

Here are the two ingredients:
  1. A relationship with the buyers of the services. Is there one? Have you met with each one of he decision makers and influencers who are going to be evaluating your proposal? And I mean relationship where they really understand your capabilities and you have a viable solution for them. Sometimes you have to ask them straight out these questions.  No use proposing if they are mealy mouthed about the answer.
  2. Have you "Been there, done that" before?  In other words, do you have the qualifications? This means do you have the ability to get this project complete without risk to the client?  Or, and this is the 800 pound gorilla in the market question; Do they know you and your firm, so well that they know you can deliver? Are you that well-known? Of course this is what branding does for you if you are meticulous on what you are working on, so that you are well known in the market that people call you! And this is really tied into NOT trying to win projects you have no business trying to win.
Learn to say "No."
Learn to tell the client "No" and then explain why your firm does not have the right experience or expertise needed to help them. You will be one of a handful of people willing to tell the client this by the way and this will make you stand out.

And beware, sometimes clients want 30 or 40 bidders so they can say they did their due diligence. It sounds far better to say, "We had 30 proposals" than to say "We had only two proposals."  The immediate thought on the second response is: "What did you do wrong that you only had two firms responding. This is known as becoming "cannon fodder."

The second area to beware of - is that some clients send out RFIs and RFPs and RFQs to do market research.  They may not want to have a firm come in to do something and are looking for reasons why something should not be done.  We see this in outsourcing a lot.  Also they may be just getting information together to figure out how they can do the work internally.  I am not saying this always happens, but yes it does occur. So beware!

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