Why Would You Pull A Proposal At The Last Minute?

It can only be described as the proposal manager’s worst nightmare.

You work for months on the largest design-build proposal you’ve ever done. It’s worth $5B, yes billion. The hard work is done. You’re in the client’s lobby when you suddenly get a call. “Pull the bid,” the voice on the other side commands.

One of your teaming partners has decided, for whatever reason, to pull the bid. You’re not going to submit the proposal to the client. You just kissed a $5B opportunity good bye. Time to revisit those projections.

This scenario may sound unlikely, but it’s exactly what happened to a team submitting to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge in New York City according to Engineering News Record.

Why Would Anyone Pull a $5B Proposal?

Pissed probably doesn’t even begin to describe how any marketer would feel in this situation. But there is something you need to consider.

There is risk associated with every time you win a proposal competition. Each win is another reason for you to celebrate, but may also give your CEO another reason to down a bottle of Mylanta. A $5B project that goes wrong could put just about any firm out of business. Heck, large construction firms have gone out of business because of projects much smaller than that.

While you would hope that all the risks have been identified and addressed back in the “go no go” phase, there are often things that come up during the development of the proposal. There are sometimes questions and concerns that come up during the proposal process. An answer given to another team’s question can completely change the game, to your detriment. A conversation with the client could raise a red flag that just can’t be ignored. In addition, a change to your firm’s financial situation or resources, during this time, could limit your chances of completing the project successfully.

Then there is risk associated with teaming. If a key teaming partner pulls out, the whole team will have to pull out. After losing a key team member, you’ll no longer have the resources to do the job. Unfortunately, you can’t control another team member’s decision to pull out of the proposal. If you formed a joint venture to go after this project, there may even be legal barriers to you submitting without the other teaming partner.

In a climate where competition is fierce and margins are slim, project risk is increased. As the marketer, what we can do is help to identify those risks up front. And of course, we can pray. We can pray that we never get a call to pull a proposal at the last minute.

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