Two recent postings in Perryn Olson‘s The Brand Constructor blog are worthy of your attention. In the first, he tackles five grave errors in presentations, and in the second, he points out six dumb-dumb mistakes in bidding for work. The reason architects, engineers and contractors don’t succeed at RFPs is generally not because they fail to have the lowest price, he says. It is because they sometimes blow the obvious — and fail to understand some of the nuances in the bidding and proposal/selection process.
Look, he says, you need to follow the RFP rules, even if they seem dumb or overly complex, and you must show related experience. Some bidders “overwhelm the selection committee” (often breaking the RFP page count rules in the process, or making the proposal unreadable with extremely small type), and others fail at the two qualities marketers go nuts over — lack of differentiation and “no personality”.
The selection committee is looking for a team they can easily work with and one that matches their own culture and personality. Showing your company’s personality will help attract clients to you. Even if you repel a few companies, others will engage with your team even more. It is better to have 25 clients that adore you than to have 50 companies that are neutral toward you. Passionate clients refer you to other business while neutral businesses move from construction company to construction company.
Then, you manage to win a spot on the short list and are invited to present, and (gulp) blow it there. Here, the problems are often soft rather than hard — after all, you wouldn’t have reached this stage if you weren’t both technically qualified and practically competent to do the work. Now you need to be able to sell the client on a different level.
The problem here, (with the six examples he cites), is lack of preparation. You can’t wing this stuff.
“The chronic problem with bid-related presentations is the lack of effort in preparing, causing a tendency to simply recite the proposal,” he writes.
Since the proposal was submitted weeks if not months ago, it has been thoroughly examined enough to be shortlisted, means your credentials have also been reviewed. Reciting the proposal during your presentation and focusing on yourself doesn’t add any information about why you should be chosen winner — instead, it shows laziness and a lack of effort. Each bid is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase your passion and credibility and how you will help others. The selection committee wants to see why you have an intriguing approach to this project. In other words, the selection committee wants to know how you will help them, they already know enough about you.
There’s a gold-mine of additional information in these posts. Read them, and if you don’t follow the advice here, you’ll undoubtedly weep.
Olsen’s blog has been nominated for the 2014 Best Construction Blog competition. His chances of winning are remote, because he hasn’t campaigned and his blog, at present, has only two votes. I neither judge nor vote in the competition, but the observations here show the limitations of a vote-based competition, where the judging only occurs among the top seven finalists. Then again, if you want to win a “Best Construction Blog” competition, just as you would a proposal/job, you’ve got to follow the rules. You also, rightfully, can decide if you want to even bother to compete.