The bid process for winning a government contract has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Uncertain markets and political gridlock have made successful bids more difficult than ever. The request for proposal (RFP) process has nearly ground to a halt, bid awards are delayed, and there’s an ever-growing focus on lower prices—and yet with all this, some companies are still thriving and landing new government contracts. How are they accomplishing this? Let’s look at 10 things successful bidding companies are doing to win new business.
Keep a lean pipeline
Pipelines represent all of the contract opportunities a contractor is pursuing at a given time. And while common sense might suggest that more opportunities mean more success, the opposite is true with contracts—the fewer the better. For every new contract opportunity added to the pipeline, one should also be removed. A strict selection method is essential to honing in on bids contractors can actually win and disregarding everything else.
Don’t be afraid to specialize
In their eagerness to win new business, many inexperienced contractors will bid on contracts outside their wheelhouse. This is a mistake. Know what your specialties are and which sort of clients you’re best suited to service, and focus on pursuing those contracts. It’s better to have a smaller pipeline with two or three bids that are within your specialty than 10 or more that aren’t.
Consider teaming up
There’s nothing wrong with forming alliances with other contractors with related skillsets that are complimentary to yours. This sort of partnership can help lessen risk for both parties while growing the overall skillset and talent pool of both parties. Traditionally, this method was frowned upon and sometimes even explicitly forbidden in the request for proposal, but that has changed, and now it’s common for the big prime contractors to team up in order to secure contracts.
Say no to pop-up bids
The relevant question to ask when a new opportunity presents itself isn’t “can I do the work,” but instead, “can I win this contract?” Many inexperienced contractors fall into the trap of just chasing the size of the contract without much consideration, which can lead to weeks (or months) of wasted prepping for a bid they won’t win. Contractors should ask themselves: Do I even know this customer and understand their business? Does this customer know us and what we offer? What happened to the previous contractor? Contractors who see a new bid and have never met the company putting out the RFP are likely just wasting their time.
Find a real differentiator
Many contractors believe they aren’t like other firms, when in fact they are. Being able to include a true differentiator in your bid—something that makes you unique—is rare. Simply stating how long you’ve been in business or how well you understand the market isn’t a differentiator. Discovering what makes your business different (and valuable) will take your bids to the next level. Differentiators like a custom methodology or actual patent can help you stand out and—more importantly, complete the job successfully.
Truly Understand customers’ needs
This might seem obvious, yet many contractors are so busy communicating how they can help that they forget to understand what they’re supposed to be helping with
. The best way to avoid this is by drilling down on the customer’s asks and pain points. Only then can you begin to craft an adequate response that speaks to what the customer is really after. Plus, understanding the problem from the inside out gives you a chance to come up with unique and creative solutions that may also help your bid stand out. Contractors can’t tell a customer how they can help them until they first listen to what they’re asking for.
For more information on the federal bid process and how improving it can help your customers win new business, contact Ingram Micro experts Samuel Alt
and Nick Vermiglio
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