Winning Bids: What Your Competitors Don’t Want You to Know

by Chris Arlen on February 10, 2012

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How to win more bids when you can't shorten the sales cycleOne way to get more sales is to speed up the sales cycle. But when it can’t be shortened, the game is to win the bid competition.

Here are six thoughts about getting better at winning the bidding game.

1# The Unwritten Rules of Bidding

Bid competitions have written and unwritten rules.

All bidders must follow buyers’ requirements in their Request for Proposal (RFP), or be threatened with disqualification for non compliance. These are the written rules of bid competitions.

However, there’s more to winning bids than being RFP compliant. There are unwritten rules of bid competitions. These rules are the true determinants to which bidders win contracts. Here are a few unwritten rules to keep in mind:

* Buyers’ buy on emotion and justify with fact (but show the facts too)

* Buyers question bidders’ claims (so include outside evidence)

* Buyers don’t have time to read every word (format content for skimming @ 700 words per minute)

* To buyers, the difference between bidders’ offerings appears small (contrary to what bidders think)

* Buyers have options: you, another bidder, or a no-decision to stay put (give compelling reasons to change)

* Price is important but often it’s decision criteria #3 (contrary to what bidders think)

* Many buyers seek the lowest-priced “qualified” bid (“qualified” could be the highest priced bid)

* Buyers compare pricing against competing bids – they don’t select bids at 1.5x – 2x market pricing

2# Don’t Get Stuck on Price

Price without value is meaningless.  As a decision criteria, price is typically weighted third or lower among the reasons for selecting a bidder. Bid competitions are won and lost on how well value is communicated in proposals.

Value is what buyers get for what they paid. The skill in writing proposals is to connect the impact on the buyer’s business your service will have. How will your proposed offering:

  • Increase buyers’ firm’s revenue?
  • Improve profitability?
  • Enhance their brand reputation?

3# Selling Value isn’t Enough

In bid competitions informing buyers of competitive advantages or differentiators doesn’t win. Buyers are over-informed with bidders’ information. Tons of information doesn’t make it. If it did, whichever bidder submitted the most pages would win. Sometimes seems like that doesn’t it?

Successful bidders persuade buyers to take action, to select their proposal and receive the contract. Success comes when bidders present compelling business-case justifications. Persuasion in sales proposals  is all that counts. Here’s a quick 3 point checklist to see if your sales proposal is persuasive.

4# In the Bidding Game, Proposals are the Moment of Truth

Responding to a request for proposal (RFP) is the make, or break moment in the sales cycle.

Get it right and you’re in for the next step; signed contract or short-list presentations.

Getting it anything other than right isn’t worth contemplating. Think of all that lost time and effort, and now you’re out of the running until next time the contract goes out to bid. How many years away is that?

5# Help Buyers Make Better Buys

Change your point of view (POV). In bid competitions your wins increase when you change your POV from seller to buyer’s assistant.

Once your thinking from the buyers’ side, how can you help them?

Help them make better buys. A better buy is defined as:

  • Good fit of scope to needs (not over ordering)
  • Achieving desired outcomes (accomplishing what’s proposed)
  • Ease of supplier management (easy to use, high visibility)
  • Good value for spend (receiving fair value for investment)
  • Spend within budget (disciplined financial management)

Better is Not “Best”

We can only help buyers make better buys with what we have access to, which is our service offering and knowledge of buyers’ situations, their opportunities, and the future (you can see into the future, right?)

Since we can’t know everything about a buyer’s Universe,  we can’t presume to know the best.

Therefore we help buyers make a better buy than they could without us.

6# Writing Proposal Responses as Buyers’ Assistants

When answering RFPs, first think what buyers must struggle with when deciding:

  • 45,000 – 150,000 words to fall asleep over (from 3 – 10 proposals)
  • A few hurried minutes to read proposals in their already overtaxed day
  • Bidders’ self-congratulatory platitudes as “industry leader”, “second to none”, “most advanced”
  • Comparing complex, detailed text responses from one proposal to the next, possibly for 10 or more proposals (numbers are easy, text not easy)

Get into your buyer’s shoes and then write your proposal from their perspective. Help them as if you were their assistant and write RFP responses that answer:

  • What would buyers want to know about their future supplier?
  • What will buyers get from their supplier for the price?
  • How will buyers know they’ve got it?
  • How easily & effectively can buyers find that in the proposal?
  • How will buyers know if claims are true?

The secret sauce for writing winning proposal responses is describing how you will fix buyers’ pains, such as:

  • Regulatory non-compliance
  • Non-scheduled downtime
  • Poor image in their marketplace

Proposal responses will be more persuasive when they describe how you will help buyers make gains, such as:

  • Increased end-user productivity
  • Higher employee morale & loyalty
  • Protecting their business reputation

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