Updated: Jan 15, 2021
“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
As we reach the final month of 2020, it is safe to say that we’re all looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. You’ve been fantasizing about in person meetings and pondering on opportunities that your firm will pursue. For most AEC firms working in the public sector, 2021 will mean more responses to RFPs and RFQs in an increasingly competitive market. So how can you improve your chances of success?
Before you start scouring the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) for the next RFQ, take a beat to reflect on what you want out of your business relationships next year. While it’s tempting to respond to an RFQ because “you can do the work,” winning a project is much more involved than that.
Assess the Client and Project Fit
First consider, who is your ideal client? What shared values are most essential to make the work a pleasure for everybody involved? Is there firm culture alignment? What types of projects do your teammates want to design or build? If you don’t know what’s important to your potential client, and just as critically, what’s important to your team, take the time to find out. Because, with certainty, there’s another consultant or contractor who has invested that time.
As your capacity begins to stretch and competition increases for every pursuit, protecting the financial well-being of your company becomes even more significant. That’s why you must understand the client’s budget for the project before pursuing. Yes, there are times to pursue a passion project, or to go for a loss-leader to break into a new market, but that must be the exception, not the rule. Before you invest the time and resources towards a pursuit, assess if you can be profitable doing the work, because the longevity of your company depends on it.
Be Disciplined About the Go/No-Go
Once you’ve established a clear financial justification for moving forward, let’s get more granular with some key questions to inform your go/no-go process. Using a questionnaire with scoring criteria will help you take some of the emotion out of the process and provide data to inform your decision making. While there are many versions of go/no-go questionnaires in the AEC industry, this is a quick assessment you can start using today.
Plan Resources from RFQ to Interview
Give these questions an honest assessment. Consideration for time and resources is more than just the capacity of the marketing department. Will a principal or project manager need to write an approach, budget, and schedule for the proposal? Does that fit in with their billable workload? Who else will you depend on for content and approval, and what is their current availability to contribute efficiently?
With most selection processes including a shortlist interview, account for that time commitment, too. Will the VDC department need to create a model? Is the project manager scheduled for vacation or a big project deadline when the interview will take place? It takes a strong commitment, focus, and energy to win work, so remember to consider the entirety of the pursuit process and all parties involved in the effort as you assess your firm’s resources.
Will a principal or project manager need to write an approach, budget, and schedule for the proposal? Does that fit in with their billable workload? Who else will you depend on for content and approval, and what is their current availability to contribute efficiently?
Consider Opportunity Costs
One last point, because we’ve heard it so many times: “I just want to submit a proposal to get our name in front of the client.” This usually signals that you haven’t taken a critical look at the investment to submit a proposal. Whether you have an in-house marketing department, or use a consultant to prepare your response, there are costs beyond labor -- opportunity costs. What business development, client care, or billable work are you compromising because you’re busy drafting a case study or rehearsing your interview? What could your marketing team be doing to preposition the firm for the next pursuit instead of grinding away on a RFQ you just saw in the DJC? How will this client perceive your firm if you miss the mark with your proposal? When selection panels are facing a stack of 10 to 20 proposals for review (yes, that’s what we’re seeing right now!), is another 20 pages of content from a firm they’ve never met the first impression that you want to leave?
Make a Strong and Lasting Impression
Remember that your proposal is an extension of your brand, so consider your go/no-go decision carefully. Whether you have an in-house marketing team or not, Middle of Six can support your pursuit process from strategy and proposal development through submittal and interview preparation. We’re designed to plug in and function just like your in-house staff, while scaling our efforts to meet your needs.