Get off the Short List: Winning Bid Presentations

By: Doug Staneart

In past decades, the contractor who had the lowest bid typically got the job. And while low bids are still critical, today that same contractor is likely to be placed on a “Short List” where the contractor will have to sell himself and sell his company to the potential clients. This is usually done through a presentation.

There is no foolproof way to win a bid, but there are a few things you can do to hedge your bets. By using these simple tips, you may be able to increase your chance of getting the job pretty significantly.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Never go into a presentation with a standard, generic proposal. Each buyer is different, and each buyer will have different priorities in choosing a contractor. Remember, no matter what the buyer tells you AFTER the presentation, price is almost never the reason they didn’t choose you. The reason that buyers tell us this is that they usually have no other means to make a decision.

Let me explain. Let’s say we are writing a proposal for a school district. The buyer, the person making the ultimate decision (by the way, that is usually only one person, even though it may to appear to be a committee,) has a hierarchy of priorities that will influence the decision. This hierarchy will be different for different people, but let’s say this particular buyer is primarily interested in the job finishing on time, the safety of the children, the aesthetics of the building, and finally, price-in that order. If this buyer views three proposals all saying basically the same things, “We are the best at finishing on time. Safety is our priority. Look at how beautiful our buildings look.” Then the only criteria left to make a decision is price.

If any of the contractors in the above example could have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were indeed the best at any one of those things, then that contractor would have easily made it to the top of the “Short List.” Specific evidence that you can do what your buyer wants will set you apart. This evidence could be pictures, testimonials, exhibits, quotes, trade journal articles, and many other forms. The more dramatic the evidence, the more easily it will be remembered. One of my clients photocopied over 100 letters of recommendation and delivered a set to each of the committee members at the conclusion of his presentation. He was the only contractor who offered even one. He got the job and was $250,000 over the lowest bidder.

How do we know what our buyer’s hierarchy is? ASK. Call up or visit the people you will present to. Find out what, other than price, is most important and why. Many times, these buyers will tell you in great detail. Make notes and accumulate evidence that supports how you can do what they want.

THE PRESENTATION

Right or wrong, people form an impression of how competent we are in the first few seconds that they meet us. Are we nervous? Do we present ourselves in a confident, professional manner? Our confidence when we present is vital to winning over our audience to our way of thinking.

The buyers want to get to know the people they will be working with. They want to know if they can trust the contractor. The contractor who can present confidently and build trust and rapport with the audience has a great shot at getting to the top of the “Short List.”

Presenters who have received professional coaching in public speaking skills have a distinct advantage over those who have not.

Doug Staneart, is CEO of The Leader’s Institute® Entrepreneur Workshops. He can be reached toll-free at 1-800-872-7830.

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