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Bid Strategies For The OSP Industry

It's a great time to be in business! There's so much work going around, whether it's large-scale fiber builds, utility audits, equipment inventories, or joint use permitting. With all these solicitation requests, it can be hard to choose which projects to pursue and how aggressively to pursue them.

Here are our top five tips for managing bids and submitting proposals in the OSP data collection industry:

1. Bid on projects designed for your team.

Having a good relationship with your clients can go a long way. Solicitations are typically written with a specific workflow or deliverable in mind, so it's well worth your time to have a local utility or communications contractor be familiar with your work. These relationships take years to build and can be expensive to maintain, but in the end, establishing mutual trust and an alignment of values will pay off for everyone involved.

2. Customize your proposal to meet their needs.

Even if the bid was designed for your team and workflow, there are still lots of ways to lose the project. One of the easiest ways is to submit a standard proposal. Your RFP response should show a thorough understanding of the client's needs and creativity to solve complex problems in a way that your competitors can't. If you're a small team, custom tailoring your proposals is a great way to beat out larger players in the industry. Some clients will choose a smaller team because they know the project will receive better care and attention; the project's success is critical to the small team's survival.

3. Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

Creativity can go a long way to show a potential client what your team is made of. No project ever occurs exactly as imagined, so coloring outside the lines (when appropriate) can demonstrate an ability to adapt to and overcome the challenges of the project. If your team is too small to take on the full project but you think your proposed workflow and price is compelling, be transparent in your proposal and ask if the client would be willing to split the job up. After all, competition improves quality across the board, best practices can be shared to iron down workflows and deliverables, and the work gets done faster than if only one team was involved.

Don't limit your team to the creativity of the person who wrote the RFP—chances are, they don't understand the industry as well as you do, and only know what they've been given in the past. Often, bidding structures allow the client to hear from a variety of content experts about how each would solve a given problem. When everyone is giving the same suggestion, creativity could set your team apart from all the rest.

4. Don't race to the bottom.

This shouldn't be on the list, but the industry has a massive problem racing to the bottom on bids. Teams will lower their price and promise the world, but they can't deliver. Soon, the client has depleted their funds and has a bitter taste in their mouth about engineering contractors because they still haven't gotten the data they really needed. When it comes to pricing, your team will need to know the real costs of your proposed workflow and the desired margin for continued growth. Doing so may lose the bid—other teams may have technology or resources that allow them to compete at a price that would put you out of business. However, if the competitor is unable to provide the service at the agreed-upon price, you just might get a call to clean up the mess. Either way, your team won't be able to win any bids if you establish a reputation for low-balling, then change-ordering to make up for it.

5. Read the fine print, and then consult someone who doesn't.

Organizing bid responses takes a lot of time, energy, and attention to detail. Simple mistakes can result in disqualification, and some of the rules feel about as arbitrary as golf etiquette. Make sure someone on your team is willing to peruse every single page of the RFP and understand the rules that will need to be followed to be considered for the bid. Once you're done pouring over the documents, bring in some fresh eyes to look at the scope of work—not knowing all the fine print will allow a teammate to come up with creative solutions uninhibited by all the rules. As their ideas start to take form, help shape their creativity into a proposal that meets the hard requirements of the RFP.

Have any other strategies that have helped your team win bids? Comment below or send me an email at aschmehl@katapultengineering.com!

Adam Schmehl