It goes without saying that people love to win. Lottery tickets, raffles, sports, hot dog eating contests – whatever the competition may be, when given the option of a win or a loss, we’ll always take the win. That leaves losing, on the other hand, as the obviously less desirable outcome.
This same logic can be applied to bids and proposals. Not only have you expended extensive resources in capture and proposal development, winning in this playing field has advantages for years to come – personnel growth, employment, organic growth with specific customers, and past performance, just to name a few.
While we revel in winning, however, it is important to recognize there is a lot to be learned from a loss.
Lessons from Loss
Assuming you consistently request debriefs in the event of a loss, once you review that information, what do you do with it? Are you truly capturing the themes contained within a debrief to identify trends? Do you know if you have improved in certain areas that were previous pain points in earlier submissions? Tracking these trends are an ideal way to determine if you are making progress that is helping your potential for win, or if you’re continuing to make the same mistakes. Issue trend and identification is essential to knowing why you keep missing out on opportunities you’re pursing.
For instance, if price continues to be an issue, devote time to reviewing your pricing strategy. Are you appropriately calculating your indirect rates? Are there ways to reduce your wrap rate or G&A costs? Are you anticipating too much profit? Are you truly priced-to-win?
Similarly, are there continuous compliance issues with your proposal? Are proposal components being missed? Compliance issues are an easy fix, and should not be an ongoing problem in multiple proposals. If they are, you haven’t implemented the appropriate tools and compliance matrices to alleviate this problem. If, on the other hand, the proposal issues are content related, this is something that may take longer to solve. Ensure that the proposal components are telling the government customer HOW you’re going to do the work, not only that you CAN do the work. Every offeror’s proposal response will be telling the government that they can do the work, otherwise they wouldn’t be responding in the first place.
Lastly, are there technology issues that are hindering your win? Either internal or external technology tools or requirements that would assist in making you more up-to-date and well-aligned with the government customers needs. Would technology provide a valuable medium to capture opportunity information and feedback? Is your government customer looking for a streamlined way for you to manage your projects?
Examine Your Wins, Too!
Although we trend towards trying to understand why a bid was lost, it’s equally important to understand why a bid was won. Debriefs can be provided to both the winning and losing contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask for a debrief, even if you win.
How else will you be reassured that your new pricing strategy was the key? Or that your revised quality management plan finally meets what the government is looking for? Understanding your strengths are just as important as knowing and mitigating your weaknesses. There is always room for improvement, even with a winning proposal. Find out what that is and continue to refine your technique!