How does a small business win contracts? Follow a four-step action plan. Today, Step Two.
Step Two is being selective. There are six questions every business, large or small, should ask and answer satisfactorily before pursuing any opportunity.
You can chase anything, but not everything. There’s an old saying about chasing two rabbits and catching neither, but it’s more complicated than that. Even if you chase just one rabbit, it has to be big enough to be worthwhile, but not so big you can’t lift it. How do you sift through opportunities to pick the ones you should pursue?
Question #1 – Does the requirement align with your capabilities and strengths? If you’re a local company with one office, a contract that requires service delivery in twenty locations across Western Canada might be beyond you. On the other hand, if your technology gives clients real-time online information access, you might be too expensive for a contract that requires only monthly hard-copy reporting.
Question #2 – Can the need be redefined for better alignment? Some clients are open to considering other alternatives, even after they’ve issued their tender or RFP; others, not so much. But it never hurts to ask. Maybe they’ll split that twenty-location contract into smaller contracts to get local attention. Maybe they’ll ask for real-time reporting, once they know it’s available.
Question #3 – Do you have a bright idea for how to meet the need? What makes you think you can win the work? How is your solution better or cheaper (or both) than what your competitors can offer? If you can’t answer that question, it might be better to put your efforts elsewhere.
Question #4 – Would having a teaming partner help to meet the need? Before you decide to drop out of an attractive opportunity altogether, consider whether having a partner might help. If the client wants a single provider for all their locations, maybe you can team up with one or more other suppliers to provide the required services, without stretching anyone too much.
Question #5 – What are your competitors up to? Has a competitor been working this opportunity for months or even years, getting the need defined to perfectly match their own capabilities, and getting exclusive access to all the suppliers they’ll need? If a competitor is too far ahead, leave them to it.
Question #6 – Is it both worthwhile and feasible? Consider the opportunity cost of the effort to bid on the work against the likely benefit. Even small proposals from individual consultants cost several thousand dollars in time expended; big bids can cost hundreds of thousands. If it is worthwhile, do you have the resources to submit a good bid? Some RFPs are just too demanding.
Before spending a dime on responding to a tender or a request for proposal, get answers you like to all these questions.