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Would your target client hire you to babysit their kids?

Bidding for a contract when you don’t know the client and they don’t know you, is a bit like applying to babysit a couple of kids for a family you’ve never met.

Establish the requirement

You and your partner decide to go on a romantic weekend away without the kids. You need someone responsible to look after little Oscar and Tabatha and make sure they’re both still in one piece when you get back. You advertise for a babysitter.

Tender for the contract

Three people respond to your brief:

Applicant 1 – A 16-year-old teenager who minds his brother for a few hours after school until his mum gets home from work. His brother is still alive and without any major injuries.

Applicant 2 – A 20-something go-to babysitter for half a dozen kids in the local area with reliable recommendations, but has never done a whole weekend.

Applicant 3 – A qualified and professional childminder with 20 years’ experience, a first aider, an ex-school teacher and is credited with every child’s eventual academic and career successes.

Who do you choose…?

Evaluate the options

Applicant 3 seems like a safe choice, right? But you have two other important factors to consider first:

Will my kids like them?

What do they charge?

Parents will stretch their budget and pay more to increase the likelihood of their kids’ safety and happiness, especially if it means they end up getting a 1:1 from Oxbridge and go on to rival Microsoft in the latest technological advancements or find a cure for cancer.

But would you ever, ever hire someone purely based on the tender information for a relationship-driven contract? Of course not. You will feel more comfortable making a choice after meeting and validating Applicant 3 first, and probably Applicant 2, in case your kids don’t like Applicant 3, or they stretched the truth a bit in their tender.

Stop bidding for work you can’t win

If you’re thinking about bidding for an exciting, juicy, high-fee-tempting piece of work where the client hasn’t got a clue who you are, and you have never met anyone there, the chances of winning it are so low that it’s, more often than not, a complete waste of time and money.

The 70/30 rule

By the time an opportunity comes out for tender, you have a chance to influence about 30% of the overall decision to win the job. And if you submit a half-arsed tender response, you’re down to just 15%. The other 70% comes from everything you did or didn’t do before the invitation landed in your inbox. And if your competition has done more work on this than you, then they’re further along that 70% than you are. And if they submit an amazing bid response on top of that…it’s game over!

“I’ve won without a relationship before”

You got lucky. It was one of those rare occasions where none of the other bidders had a relationship with the client either.

At least one of your competitors will have been working the relationship for months or years and be some way ahead of you on that 70% mark. If their time and effort have built their relationship to about 35%, and they also submit a knock-out 30% tender, this takes them to 65%, and you’re toast.

“Ok, I’ll hire a bid consultant”

Great. We love it when you hire us. It means we can switch from the odd value-branded beans to the Heinz ones. Still, whilst bid consultants are often pretty close to being miracle workers, we can’t impact the past.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out why your bid team or your external consultant didn’t guarantee you a win, it’s because they could only get you as far as that 30%.

So, next time an opportunity comes up to bid for a contract where you will be working closely with the client, remember this: “Who would I choose to babysit my kids?”

You deal with the first 70%, we’ll deal with the other 30%. 

Alison Zalecki, MD of Mozer

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