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Should You Speculate During The Proposal Process?

Proposal Speculation

I often say that there are so many unknowns in the proposal selection process that it is impossible to accurately predict whether or not you are going to win. In fact, it is probably best to stay away from speculation completely other than “do we have a reasonable shot?”

Let me illustrate why speculation is a fool’s game.

You Might Not Know The Client’s Misconceptions

We held a $1M contract with a state agency that was essentially a four-year contract. Four months after we signed this contract an RFP hit the street that was exactly like our contract’s RFP except for two additional lines of scope. These two lines were, of course, right up our alley. As soon as we saw this, we went into panic mode. Why is this happening? Have we done a bad job?

We talked to our teaming partner which was a large engineering firm. They told us that they had heard that the original contract was meant to be earmarked for a specific firm (not us), but that firm went one page over the page limit and was completely disqualified. Therefore, this new contract was a way to give this favored firm the contract.

When we asked our teaming partner whether they would propose with us on this new contract, they simply said “no.” Why would they say “no?” They explained that it was in their best interest for another firm to have this contract as well.

We finally got a hold of our client. He indicated that the reason for the client advertising another RFP with virtually the same scope of work as is in our contract, was that his boss had talked to someone (he thought from our firm) who was teaming with XYZ Construction Company on an upcoming project.

In my firm’s line of business, that would be considered, by many, a direct “conflict of interest.”

Therefore, to eliminate the possible conflict of interest, the client quickly advertised another RFP. Just to satisfy our own curiosity, we contacted the XYZ Construction Company. It turns out that they were teaming with a firm that had a similar name, but was clearly not us.

You May Be Relying on Unreliable Intel

Teaming partners can be a great source of client intelligence. But be careful not to take intel received by a third party as gospel.

Many people, including me, have been burned by intel, from teaming partners, that ended up being inaccurate.

I remember one specific instance where two different sources told me that a particular client was “fed up” and “had a lot of problems” with the incumbent. Based on this intel, I decided to “go” a proposal effort I normally wouldn’t have.

In the end, we lost to the incumbent. Upon post-debrief analysis, I realized it was mathematically impossible for us to beat the incumbent because the intel was wrong.

Is It Really Wired?

During my go/no go evaluation of an RFP, I decided to contact a mentor of mine who was working for a direct competitor.

She knew about the RFP. She then let me in on a secret. This contract was “wired” for her firm. In fact, her engineers had written the RFP.

I decided that the pursuit wasn’t the right fit for us. We were missing a key ingredient. And this new intel helped solidify my decision.

Did my mentor’s firm win the contract? No.

And years later, we went on to not only beat her firm but also beat the incumbent.

The bottom line is, even if you’ve written the RFP, there is no guarantee that anything is wired for you.

Your Next Action

These are just three stories that illustrate why I don’t believe in speculating about a procurement.

In my mind, it’s impossible to speculate beyond, “Do we have a reasonable shot at winning?”

Avoid speculating when it comes to proposals. And only rely on information you are absolutely sure of.

Now It’s Your Turn

Have you ever speculated about a proposal only to have it bite you later? Are you in favor of speculating?Share your stories and opinions in the comments.

3 Easy, But Powerful, CRM Hacks That Will Make Your Day

Easy CRM Hacks

Can you make small adjustments to your CRM that result in big wins?

Recently, I had the pleasure of putting together an educational session called, “Peek Into Our CRMs.” In this session, two SMPS members (Sharyn and Janine) joined me to share exactly how we use our CRM (Client Relationship Management) systems.

It was three different people, who have implemented three different CRMs in three radically different ways.

Yes, it was eye opening. Yes, it was very impressive. Yes, it certainly changed my perception of some of these CRMs.

But the most valuable takeaways were small customizations one of us made that the other two didn’t think of. You might consider them small, but powerful, CRM hacks.

Luckily, these concepts can be applied to nearly any CRM system.

CRM Presentation (Sharyn and Janine get a kick out of my CRM diatribe.)

CRM Hack #1: Identifying Pencil Sharpeners

Sharyn had the most mind-blowing hack. Her firm is a certified DBE and is often in a subconsultant role.

One of the challenges of being a sub is primes will often ask you to “sharpen your pencil.” That means they ask you to lower your price.

But are they doing it for a reason or just arbitrarily?

Sharyn decided to track, in her CRM, every time one of her clients (one of those primes) asked the firm to lower its price. If one of those primes consistently asks for lower prices, she’ll decide to team with a firm who doesn’t.

Genius!

CRM Hack #2: Tracking Teaming Partner’s Win Rates

Janine also teams, as a sub, with firms submitting as a prime.

As many people do, she assigns a reason why they lost. One of those reasons is “Lost By Prime.”

With this information, she’s tracking how successful or unsuccessful her teaming partners are at winning. And that helps her decide who to team with.

CRM Hack #3: Fore Golfers

Janine also added a little checkbox in each contact record. It said “golfer.”

Why didn’t I think of that?!?! If you know which clients golf, that makes putting together foursomes or inviting people to golf events so much easier.

So simple, yet so genius!

Bonus CRM Hack: Converting Proper Names To Those Actually Used

Matt Handal CRM Presentation (Even a bad hair day won’t stop me from joking about my odd use of CRM.)

I’ve written in the past about my use of Zurmo. One of the customizations I’ve implemented is creating workflows that edit first names when contact records are saved.

For example, one of these workflows changes “Timothy” to “Tim.”

That way, when my CRM sends an email, it doesn’t address people with their formal name. The emails can be much more casual and friendly.

Plus, we all know alarm bells go off when we receive anything that uses our formal name.

I do this for many formal names. Richard and William are the only exclusions I can think of.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you have a CRM hack, a small modification, that makes your life easier?

If so, share with the group by posting a comment.

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