In Part 1 of our seven part series on the Seven Deadly Proposal Sins, we covered Pride, which is often synonymous with incumbentitis. Thinking that “the customer loves us too much to lose,” underestimating the competition, and developing proposals that are retrospective and self-centered are the major pitfalls of a Prideful company.
The second deadly proposal sin, Gluttony, is an attribute of an omnivorous company that bids on everything it comes across, spreading its resources thin on too many pursuits. We refer to this as a “See-Bid Diet” where a company sees a solicitation and instantly feels compelled to bid on it. The motivation of gluttonous companies is to grow aggressively, which is not a bad thing to want. However, bidding on every opportunity in sight to grow is like eating everything in sight to lose weight. It just doesn’t work.
The first reason for gluttony is that company management doesn’t know how to say “no” to something that “sounds just like us.” The temptation is too strong. The second reason is that business developers feed off of their leadership’s natural aggressiveness and “sounds just like us” mentality, and go along with their bosses. There is a fundamental lack of knowledge in these companies of how to expand in a healthier, more effective way.
The real trouble comes when the company adopts a culture of completing proposals, instead of winning proposals – choosing quantity over quality. Unfortunately, this type of bidding reflects the wasteful nature of gluttony. The proposals are haphazardly thrown together, featuring incomplete solutions that stem from limited capture efforts and customer knowledge. These proposals may turn out to be “technically acceptable,” but have a low probability of winning unless the company low-balls. In the meantime, the proposal team burns out, becomes cynical, and loses its professional skills. The company management keeps wondering why the win_rate is so low, but keeps running west looking for the sunrise – because the habit of gluttony is hard to break.
Mitigating Gluttony: Addressing gluttony in a company is a lot like stopping impulse-buying junk food at the grocery store. Smart shoppers and healthy eaters plan their meals for the week, set up a budget, make a list of all the items they need, and stick closely to buying only the items on the list. Similarly, if you want to prevent impulse bidding, you need to clearly define the growth goals and develop a pipeline of opportunities that you have a chance of winning. Generally, a positive attitude of “yeah, we can do that” is a good one to have. However, in federal contracting, saying “yes” to every opportunity is the surest way to burn through your bid and proposal budget on opportunities with a low probability of winning. Typically, these opportunities are not well qualified against the company’s capabilities and strategic business development plan, and result in sub-standard proposals.
Having a checklist containing the criteria of the types of opportunities that map to your business development strategy is one way to help focus your business development efforts. You should know how many opportunities you should bid on to fulfill your growth goals – and have an appropriate business development budget set up for it. Additionally, planning ahead and capturing opportunities over the course of their procurement lifecycle will contribute to developing customer-focused proposals with great solutions. However, even the best laid plans of mice and men are worthless unless you stick to your guns, so be sure to maintain the discipline of saying “no” to gluttony and a sense of strategic direction.
If you are a company that is having difficulty focusing your business development efforts or are losing most of your bids, please let us know so that we can help develop your business development strategy.
Business Development and Operations Manager
Because there is no second place in proposals!TM