Changing the dialog surrounding bid decisions

Throughout my entire career, business and proposal development specialists have argued that bidding everything results in lower profitability than bidding less and winning more. While this happens to be true, throughout my entire career I have never seen this argument win over anyone who didn’t already believe it.

It’s time to change the dialog.

See also:
Bid/no bid decisions

Bidding less to win more sounds too much like bidding less. It’s time to drop that phrase from our vocabularies. Instead we should be advocating bidding everything where you understand what it will take to win better than your competitors.

To achieve this you have to have:

  1. A superior understanding of what it takes to win
  2. An information advantage
  3. Some insight into the competitive environment

You can actually quantify all three of those. Quantifying them provides useful bid criteria. But you don’t want “bid/no bid” decisions. “No bidding” sounds like bidding less. What you want are something like the Readiness Reviews we’ve built into the MustWin Process on PropLIBRARY. You need to assess what you know regarding the three bullets above, so that you can identify the opportunities that you want to bid. And you want to bid every one of them in which you have an advantage.

Note the three highlighted words. They change the dialog from a negative one (“no bidding”) about bidding less, to a positive dialog about bidding more (“every one” with an “advantage”).

Here’s a little something we wrote that can help. It provides 135 topics in 9 categories that all relate to what you need to know about a pursuit in order to win it. You can use it to quiz people about what it will take to win. It’s set up like a checklist and if you give it to them to complete they can prove that your company has an information advantage.

But the real power behind shifting the dialog and staying positive is that it changes the arguments. It’s no longer an argument about whether to bid, in which you show up as the bad guy saying they can’t have what they want. Instead, the argument is over what it will take to win and whether your company has an information advantage. Let folks argue against you all day long that they have an information advantage. Invite them to prove it in the form of winning bid strategies that differentiate you from your competitors and reflect the customer’s perspective.

It’s not about who wins the argument. No matter what, you win. Because they are now trying to demonstrate that they know what it will take to win and have an information advantage. Even if their win strategies are lame, they will try harder. Over time they will get better. They now have goals. They now go into a pursuit knowing what they have to do to win the argument. It’s a beautiful thing to see play out.

It’s still a bad sign if no pursuits get cancelled. But even if they don’t, your win rates should go up because you’ll be getting more of what you need to write winning proposals. All you have to do is change the dialog. That can be hard to do, and will take time. I know because I sometimes fall back on talking about “bid/no bid” decisions the way I’m used to.

You have to start correcting people who talk about not bidding things, and switch them to the positive by teaching them that we want to bid everything in which we understand what it will take to win better than our competitors. You have to teach them by asking about what it will take to win each new bid and challenging them if it doesn’t differentiate your company or show any insight that your competitors won’t have. And you have to do it all while staying positive.


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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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