Win the Bid: Key Points for the Bidding Process
Win the Bid: You know by now that the estimating process involves much more than the take-off. The process starts before you even look at a set of plans, and the process never really ends. This process involves an almost endless loop of deciding which projects to bid, working on relationships, completing take-offs, submitting your bid, and most importantly, following up with everyone involved.
Win the Bid: Relationships are beneficial!
To help win the bid, first and most importantly, never underestimate the power of relationships! Cultivating relationships with construction professionals and with local business people has long-term value and will help with any future estimate you need to make. If you think you do not have time, please reconsider. The more effort you put into relationships, the more you will get out of this process.
Make sure that the general contractors to whom you are bidding know who you are! When all other factors are even, I truly believe that the company “with the relationship” will win the bid almost every time. And, although I really did not touch on this previously, keeping in touch is easier now than it has even been. Social media outlets, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, make it easy to help you connect with industry professionals and to keep abreast of the construction industry in your area. Look for links in common if you need an introduction.
- Always bid work while you are busy! If you think you don’t have time, make some. I know a lot of you may not have a healthy backlog of work, but the only way to get a backlog, is to bid, bid, bid! That is not to say that you should be indiscriminate about what you bid, but you should bid enough work to keep your electricians busy and productive. Contractors tend not to make the best decisions when there is no work on the books and you bid jobs below your cost just to “keep the guys busy.” This leads me to my next point.
- Never bid a job below your cost (unless there is a solid strategic reason to do so)! This statement assumes that you know your costs, so please always complete a detailed take-off so you can determine all the material and labor requirements of a project. You can always check your take-off versus a tried and true square-foot number, but you should never base your bid on a square-foot number. Remember, every job is different, and you should always review the plans and specs to know what you are dealing with. Reminder: cultivate relationships with your vendors as well; they are the ones that will ensure you have the “right” number on bid day.
- Sell your company and its benefits! Please do not assume that every company to which you are submitting a bid knows exactly who you are and what your company is capable of. Again, when all things are equal, the company that presents itself the best will have an edge over its competition. To help win the bid, package your proposal so it stands out. For example, before bid day, send a package to the person in charge of receiving the bids. Include your scope (proposal) letter with “price to follow,” as well as a company capabilities flyer/brochure, and your business card. Follow up on bid day with your price. That way the company gets exposure to you twice in the same bid process. And just a little food for thought, if you do not have the experience or capability within your company to develop a flyer or brochure, contact your local community college or university. There are a lot of students out there clamoring for experience that would welcome the opportunity to help your company at a fraction of the cost you would pay going to a big marketing agency.
Finally, follow up, follow up, follow up! As the saying goes “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” While I am not advocating being a downright pest, you should absolutely follow up after you submit your price. Try to find out where you are in “the mix” of bids and see what you can do to close the job. Also, please do not chase someone else’s number unless you know you can absolutely do the job for that price, and that the number you are chasing is actually based on a quantitative take-off. (And again, remember that general contractors tend to “bend the truth a little” so be aware you may be bidding against yourself!)
The process of bidding projects never really ends. It’s a continual loop. I can tell you from experience that producing an estimate does get easier over time if you follow at least some of my advice.