Part of the value we bring to the table as a consulting firm is the ability to secure our clients competitive bids on their project(s). Our goal is somewhat different than that of an integrator. We want an embarrassment of riches — so many qualified bidders and competitive bids that the owner has to scratch his/her head to decide which of these excellent alternatives to select. The integrators, of course, want to stand out and be the one proposal that makes all of the others appear unworthy.
To accomplish our objective, we need to put some care into the preparation of a bid list for each job. This can be complicated for a firm like ours as we work nationally, and there are great integrators everywhere, and unfortunately not-so-great ones too.
We first look to our past experiences. Do we have integrators in that area that we have worked with? Even if an integrator hasn't won one of our projects in the past, if their bid was responsive and professional, we'll consider them.
Second, we talk to the client. Are there any firms that they have successfully worked with? Who is the incumbent? Sadly, many of our clients come to us precisely because they have no one; if they did, the project might have been a negotiated sale with no need for a consultant. But their local integrators have let them down, and they're ready for someone new.
Third, we look to the key manufacturers on the project to recommend firms that they have successfully worked with. We like that option as it tends to give us well-trained firms and the backing of the manufacturer.
And fourth, we'll occasionally consider firms that have approached us to be on our bid lists.
When the integrators get our RFP package, they have a decision to make — whether or not to bid on the project. This is often just a business decision with no strategy involved. They can look at their skill set, the competition, current and projected workload, and other factors and decide whether or not it's worth their while. If not, why go to the trouble?
Two reasons come to mind, besides the actual project. First, referrals. If a manufacturer is referring you, it's going to want you to bid. If you don't bid on projects for which you are referred, the leads are sure to dry up. No one wants to refer someone who is non-responsive, and deciding not to bid a job is about as non-responsive as it gets. From our perspective, when we are referred a consulting lead, it has to be pretty bad for us to ignore it. We want the referrals, and keeping people who give our name out thinking of us is a key consideration when looking at prospective projects.
Second, the experience is a factor. If you are interested in getting into an area, go ahead and respond. If you don't get the project, seek out feedback as to why you didn't get the job. There are often factors beyond price, and an informal "off the record" phone call with the owner, consultant, or other key players may give you the information you need to win the next one.
As a side note, sometimes you may get leads that really don't speak to your core competencies. Rather than summarily rejecting them, respond with the reason you're not bidding. I'd rather hear from an integrator that they're not interested in bidding a certain type of project but keep them in mind for other types, than to have them just "no bid" our jobs. The former will get them on the right bid lists; the latter will take them off all of our lists - even the Christmas card list!