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Bidding on Business? 5 Tips to Beat the Competition

Inc. logo Inc. 4/27/2018 John Boitnott
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It's tough to outbid a larger company that has more resources. But, there are concrete steps you can take to make sure you're better equipped for the job than a competitor.

Landing a big job can help your business move to the next level. It's also good for your mental health: Instead of the chaotic frenzy that can erupt from working with too many small clients, a large project often brings stability and months of reliable work.

Maybe it's a government application overhaul or a seasonal corporate cleaning gig. If you run a service-based business that caters to residential customers, it may even be a small landscaping project worth thousands of dollars. Whatever the reason, someone has asked you to provide a bid, making it likely you have competition for the opportunity.

Once you've received an invitation to bid on a project, you may feel as though the competition puts you at a disadvantage. This is especially true if you're bidding against larger companies that have the resources to do the work for less.

But you can give yourself an edge in the bidding process by putting some extra time in on the front end. Use these five tips to get ahead before the process even starts:

1. Be ready to start.

Don't enter the proposal stage without making sure you're equipped to handle the work. Your competitors may be able to provide a full staff and the latest tools to manage the work. That shouldn't stop you if you feel that your business can actually do the work.

However, if you commit to a three-month turnaround time, yet you can't make that deadline even working around the clock, you'll fall through on your promise. Not only will you likely lose out on a significant chunk of the money you were supposed to earn, but it can also be a black mark on your reputation.

2. Be picky about opportunities.

Just because you're invited to bid doesn't mean you have to accept. The truth is, not every job is right for you. Feel free to ask exploratory questions to determine if it's the right fit, discussing exactly what work will be required.

This may have the added benefit of eliminating the many situations where you're asked to submit a bid merely as part of some company's policy requiring three bids for every purchase over a certain amount.

If a business already has someone in mind, you'll likely find its employees are evasive with your questions and decline to spend much time talking to you about the project.

3. Spend time researching.

Before you begin preparing your bid, spend some time researching the company and anything you know about the project. If you're aware of the competition, put some time into understanding what they bring to the table.

This extra work on the front end will help you create a proposal that is in line with what the requester wants. If you're called in to do a presentation, this will also help you answer any questions that come up during your pitch.

4. Provide value.

As a younger business, you may not be able to compete on price, but that isn't the only determining factor. In fact, unless some rule is in place that it must take the lowest bid, the business may choose someone on the high end of pricing.

In addition to cost, the client will likely also look for work quality and turnaround time. Emphasize your business's strengths, such as the ability to offer focused attention to the project because you're a smaller company.

5. Discount strategically.

You may be tempted to cut your prices as much as you can afford to land the gig. Don't. Be fully honest with yourself about what this project will cost and make sure you build in at least a little profit.

Sure, the job will look great on your business's client list, but if you go broke trying to finish it, that won't matter. Check into the cost of the man-hours and other resources it will take to accomplish the work and make sure you're covered.

If you plan to go after one or more big jobs this year, bidding can be a breeze. You just need to put some time into research and choose the right opportunities, then write up a proposal that's realistic about what your growing business can handle.

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