The secret formula behind every successful bid

Maybe you can feel me on this. You’ve been out there bidding contracts for some time now. Here’s the problem, you’re probably a little bit frustrated if you’re not winning any of the contracts that you’re bidding. I can raise my hand and say I’ve been in the same boat. I was at a point where I was bidding contracts and nothing, not hearing anything back, like crickets, seriously, and just shelling out bids, with no results.

Want to watch a video version of this post? I’ve got you covered!

Here is how like the light bulb moment came on for me. I had this opportunity to bid on a contract. I’m putting together pricing, I have to get pricing from my subcontractors as well as my own numbers. As we’re waiting on numbers to come in, we have to go and deliver the actual bid because it’s the last minute, but we haven’t got in all our numbers. We had to drive. If I remember, I think it was like a couple hours away from my house here in Texas.

We got up early that morning to drive to the bid submission place and we’re still waiting on numbers from our subcontractors. Once we got to the town where the bid was due, here was our game plan. We’ll find an Office Depot, Stapes, OfficeMax, something like that, and we’ll have the numbers faxed to that location along with the bid number calculations that we need to include in the bid.

You don’t take bid numbers over the phone, I hope you don’t. We had the numbers faxed over, and then we were going to add the numbers to the bid, total it out and submit the bid.

Well, it didn’t work like that. We get down there, to that small town. We’re looking for a place to receive the fax. The place we found wasn’t an Office Depot, OfficeMax or Staples. It was a small little store. They didn’t open till nine o’clock am. Bids were due at 10 o’clock. So, we have to wait right for them to open up. You talk about sweating bullets!

Can you imagine the frustration and just being totally overwhelmed?

Finally, we get the bid numbers. We put the final bid package together. We had to make copies as well because they wanted three copies plus one original. We had to receive the fax and then make copies, total numbers, package the bid and then still get to the place of submission, in this small little town that we’ve never been to. Now we have to get from the fax store to the bid submission location. And it wasn’t up the street either. We Googled it and didn’t like what we saw!

We finally got there. We stamped out bid and it was two minutes later than the bid submission time. They wouldn’t take the bid! Talking about frustrating.

I don’t want this to happen to you.

This might have been a little horror story for you, and you may have your own. You may have your own story to share of what happened to you, but here’s some things that I want to share with you that you can do to prevent this from happening in the future or if you haven’t experienced this, let’s prevent it from happening at all.

Learn from my mistake, okay, as I share this with you…

Here’s the first thing:

  • You want to have a checklist of everything you want to include and must include in your bid. Some things for you to consider as you’re putting together a bid.
  • You’re going to have to know how to bid.
  • You need to know that it takes time to source numbers from other contractors.

You have to give them time to get the numbers to you and then you have enough time to put the whole bid package together. Know how long that takes is half the battle because that will determine if you have time to bid on a particular project or not.

Just because you have an opportunity and maybe it’s two weeks out, and you’re thinking, “Oh I have plenty of time.” Yeah but you’ve still got to give your subcontractors enough time to get their numbers in to you first, and then you have to compile everything. Then, how does it have to be delivered? Do you have to FedEx it? Are you going to take it in person? What does that look like?

You need to consider all those things as it relates to how much time it is going to take you.

You need to know all of the necessary steps for putting together the bid. This is where we probably dropped the ball on that one I shared earlier. Here’s the reality, some of our contractors, we needed their numbers.

We couldn’t bid without our subcontractor numbers, and so we had to wait on them.

You’re going to what to know:

  • What does sourcing numbers look like for you?
  • What do you need to include in your bid?
  • What are the necessary steps you’re going to need to take to put together a bid?
  • How many people are going to be involved in the process?
  • How long will it take you to put together the entire bid?

If it’s a solicitation, you’re going to have to break down the solicitation to even get to bidding.

How much time will it take you to break down a solicitation? For those of you that are new to this, solicitations can be over one hundred pages.

How long will it take you to go through all those pages? Oh, you can’t skim through the solicitation either.

Responding incorrectly to a solicitation and then winning the bid on missed information could make or break your business.

  • You need to know everything that is inside the solicitation.
  • You need to know what are the requirements.
  • You definitely want to know if there’s going to be back charges because of something you didn’t do.
  • You need to know everything that’s in the solicitation, and can you handle it, do you meet the requirements and what happens if you don’t.
  • You need to know what to include in the proposal, if you have to submit a proposal like on an RFP.
  • A lot of that information will come from the solicitation, which again is why it’s so important to break down the solicitation.

Here’s what happens, if you don’t submit everything that they’re asking for in the proposal, it goes in the trash.

Stop bidding stuff that you have no shot at winning.

Come down out of the clouds.

I don’t mind stretching it a little bit, but here’s the thing… You’re bidding projects you know you don’t have the capacity, cash flow, manpower to deliver.

Don’t wait until you get a contract to figure these things out. I’ve just thrown a few questions at you that you need to know the answers to each time you’re considering a bid.

A client I just signed last week, plan was to bid, win, and then find subcontractors for the project.  

That’s not how we work. I haven’t seen that strategy work out well. In reality, if you’re lucky enough to find someone that quick, but hey, why add the extra stress? Who wants to be working 24/7 trying to find a subcontractor because you waited until the last minute? I don’t.

Be prepared. Bid projects that you have a chance at winning.

I like to share my Go/No Go Bid Formula with my clients. I give them a checklist of some things to consider to help determine whether they should bid on a contract. Go means proceed and No Go means don’t bid and move onto the next one.

I share my bid spreadsheet with my clients. If you don’t have a software like RSMeans or something similar that you’re using and you’re more on a manual side, you can use Google sheets, Excel spreadsheet, Apple numbers to calculate and formulate your bid numbers.

Because this is so important, I’ve created a bid spreadsheet for my clients in my Contractors Edge Programs.

My clients get access to spreadsheet to help them with bidding. Guess what? It has all the formulas included. Yours should have formulas too, so that you’re not having to carry numbers over from one sheet to the next.

What happens is when you’re copying numbers manually, you could transpose numbers and mess up your calculations. You want to have formulas in place to where it is bringing the numbers over for you automatically.

Oh yeah, this is a game changer. You want to have more than one set of eyes looking at a bid. I think I just told you why that’s the case right because you can transpose numbers or miss something.

You just want to make sure that everything’s in place:

  • All the requirements are met
  • All necessary information is included
  • Bid numbers are correct
  • Included all pertinent numbers to profit

A second set of eyes is always great. I tell my clients make that happen. Always have someone else look at your bids for you, just to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

Make sure you submit it on time. The contracting team is not playing about submitting on time.

In the story I share, I was  two minutes late. Submit last, you might as well had through the bid in the trash. All of that work, putting together the numbers for weeks, employee time wasted, owner time wasted, money wasted. Employees are paid whether you win the bid or not.

  • Make sure you’re meeting the requirements.
  • Bid projects that you know you have a shot at winning.
  • Put a system in place to help you work through the process.
  • Have a second set of eyes review your bid.

If you already have a bid process, that’s cool, tighten it up.

I have a bid checklist of some things you need in place and should consider BEFORE you bid a contract. You’re welcome to partake of that free resource.

If you already have a list, check my list against your list. Check off whether you have everything or not, and if it’s something that you need to add, add it.

It’s your business. It’s your process, but at least look at it, and you decide whether you need to make adjustments to your list or not.

If what you’re doing isn’t working right now, I say give it a whirl, try it.

If you don’t have a bid process in place, a step by step process, by now you’ve probably realized that you need one, especially if you’re bidding contracts and you’re not winning.

When you’re soliciting bids from subcontractors, give the subcontractors enough time to get the numbers back to you. I would go as far as to ask the subcontractors to hit reply and let you know that they received the bid invitation. That why you know they received it and either they plan to submit a bid or they’re not.

Here’s another tidbit, when you send an opportunity out for bid, say the bid is due on a Friday, you might want your numbers from the subcontractors no later than Wednesday.

You would tell the subcontractors that the due date is Wednesday. Now you have two days to put everything together and hunt down the few people that don’t turn their numbers in on time.

Remember bid contracts that you have a shot at winning. Now it’s time to either tighten up your bid process or create one.

I’m sharing with you my bid checklist with you.

You also need to have systems and processes in place to facilitate successful execution of your bid submission. I’m telling you implementing this one key element will save you a lot of time, a lot of money and some heartache.

This is why we launched the Contractor’s Edge Program (CEP). It’s our program to help overworked small business owners gain more time for those they love while increasing profitability, scalability, and sustainability.