We have spent a good portion of the past few days reviewing bid responses for a major CCTV project that our firm is handling. After a fairly detailed request for proposal (RFP) package, multiple walkthrough opportunities, and a comprehensive request for information (RFI) process, we thought that we would get a number of complete, professional, competitive bids. And while the responses as a group were excellent, I am reminded that many firms secure work in spite of their proposals, not because of them.
First of all, price counts. I don’t care what anyone tells you, a price differential of more than 10 percent is hard to sell to the person tasked with writing checks. So none of this should be misconstrued as justification to overcharge. If you don’t feel that you can be competitive, don’t waste your time. Sure you can add value, but all added value ultimately has a price.
Second, spelling counts. And it especially counts when it is the name of the prospective client. How can people spell the name of the client and the project wrong? Well, in this case, I guess if you can spell the name of your own firm wrong (multiple times), then spelling the client’s name wrong shouldn’t be a stretch. And by spelling, I also mean grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and all the other niceties. There’s a difference between “a lot” and “alot.” Look it up if you don’t believe me.
In fact, grammar, spelling, and punctuation may count more than your technical response in many cases. Why? Two reasons come to mind. First, the person writing the checks may not understand the technical issues but he sure knows how to spell the name of his company. Second, a sloppy proposal equates to sloppy work in people’s minds. I know it shouldn’t — the person writing the proposal isn’t the person doing the work — but it is a hard barrier to overcome.
In our office, we have multiple people read each document that goes out the door, and we still make mistakes from time to time. If you aren’t staffed sufficiently to do that, find a high-school student and offer them a few bucks for proofing your work. I know they may not catch the complicated things, but they’ll likely catch the same mistakes your prospective client will catch. And the old saying is true, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
Check back for more on this topic in the days ahead, and, as always, your comments are welcome.