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To bid or not to bid? That is the question of qualification

Every story has a beginning. And the beginning is a great place to start. But in the world of proposals, sometimes the best place to start might be to not start at all.  

That's right. After taking a long hard look you might need to step away. Not all opportunities are equal. Resist the urge to pounce on every one that comes into view and first ask yourself these four essential questions:

Is it real?
Do we want it?
Can we win it?
Can we do it?

Is it real?

There's little point in bidding if there isn't going to be a contract awarded at the end of the day!

If the client's considering replacing an incumbent supplier - are they so disillusioned with their current provider that it's worth the cost, risk and inconvenience of change? Or is this simply a benchmarking exercise, designed to keep their existing provider on their toes and to beat them up on cost? Are they just going through the motions to show they've tested the market occasionally?

If it's a new initiative for them - does it have the right support within the customer's organisation? Do they have budgets in place? Is there a compelling event, and are there definite dates for implementation? Is this project really going to fly?

Do we want it?

And we mean, really want it?

Ask yourself if this is core business for you, or an area you want to move into strategically.

Is the deal attractive enough financially, in terms of revenues and margin, for you to make money from it?

Does this create something repeatable with other clients, or that you can reference in the future? Will it enhance our portfolio in this area, or help you build market share?

Is this a customer with whom you want to work - and with whom you'll enjoy working?

If you dedicate resources to this, might you have to turn away another, more profitable or interesting opportunity in the same timescales?

Can we win it?

Do you have a good relationship with the key decision makers in the customer's team or organisation? Remember that people tend to buy from people they know, like and trust.

Do you have a strong, affordable solution and a demonstrable proven track record in this area? Is your offer likely to be superior to those which other vendors can offer? Are their process and requirements slanted in your favour (rather than towards other likely bidders)?

Do you have a clear strategy and plan to win the business? Do you know who your competitors are, and can you justify why the client should choose you ahead of them?

Do you have the necessary resources to develop a first-class proposal that will win the deal, whilst respecting the work/life balance of those who will contribute? And do you have the necessary senior management support internally?

Can we do it?

There's no point in winning the deal if you can't deliver. Are you 100% confident you have the solutions, infrastructure, expertise, management support, financing and resources available to implement your solution for the client successfully, on-time and within budget?

That's quite a list of questions, isn't it? If you can answer 'yes' to each one, you're clear for take-off. If not, you could be heading straight into rough weather.

Playing the strategic card

When some people know they're struggling to justify a deal they know they have an extremely low chance of winning, they pull out the "it's strategic" card from up their sleeve.

Now, there are rare occasions when this is true - if you're trying to penetrate a new market and gain experience and exposure, or you need to rebuild a relationship that was damaged during a previous unsuccessful bid. Sometimes you might want to be seen to be 'in the game' so it can put you in a stronger position for a known future piece of business.

But, generally, when the best you can do is say: "it's strategic", this is a deal that you shouldn't be pursuing.

Approach with caution

The best approach is to treat every opportunity as being 'qualified out until it's qualified in'. In other words, the default setting should be that you won't pursue a deal unless you can clearly justify why you should do so - rather than working on the premise that you'll chase anything that moves provided no-one says 'stop'!

To find out more about the key skills and tools necessary to develop powerful, compelling proposals contact our experts on 0800 009 6800 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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