Would You Rather be Barbarian or Duck?

In this corner, with a 42% large-bid win rate, the contract challenger, “Barbarian at the Gate”.

And in this corner, with more than 48 consecutive months of uninterrupted service, the incumbent contractor, “Sitting Duck”.

Which would you rather be? Challenger or Incumbent, in a competitive bid?

Of course from a money standpoint, we’d want the incumbent’s revenue and profit already gained. But, when the contract’s out to bid, who has the best chance of winning?

Here are some thoughts.

Sitting Duck POSITIVES (+)

The following are potential positives. Doesn’t mean they’re automatically handed over. But the incumbent has the inside track. And smart ducks work from the first day of service to the inevitable rebid.

  • Understanding individual contacts’ personalities & preferred work styles
  • Knowing service bottlenecks & how to work around them
  • Developing relationships with HR, Finance & others who may be decision makers during rebid
  • Knowing customer’s strategic initiatives & internal changes
  • Understanding customer’s business pains (red ink, bad press, layoffs) affecting service
  • Influencing the RFP for contractor qualifications & specifications
  • Presenting the duck’s intelligence with proactive, on-going innovations & R&D
  • Showing duck’s commitment with involvement from its top executives
  • Understanding customer’s culture regarding communication, changes & conflicts

Barbarian at the Gate NEGATIVES (-)

  • All the positives of the Sitting Duck are the negatives as a Barbarian.

Sitting Duck NEGATIVES (-)

  • Customers know when & how badly a Duck has messed up
  • Customers judge how well a Duck has delivered against expectations – not service actually delivered, but what customers knew about
  • Duck’s performance compared to customers’ expectations – even if customers’ misunderstood or were unrealistic
  • Duck’s actual performance on the roulette wheel of service – hiccups occur
  • Legal, mandatory procurement requirements to rebid contracts
  • Customers like change for the sake of change – they’re people too
  • Duck may limit itself in proposals feeling customers’ have already decided

Barbarian at the Gate POSITIVES (+)

  • Barbarians are always standing on the greener grass
  • Barbarians’ proposal claims are taken at face value
  • Customers can’t validate barbarians’ meltdowns, they haven’t seen things go wrong yet
  • Barbarians bring fresh perspective, can present new ideas without legacy of failure


Sitting Ducks and Barbarians at the Gate need knowledge, understanding, and insight into the customer’s bid opportunity. The game is about figuring out what’s not in the RFP.

What Would You Rather Be? Barbarian or Duck?

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