No matter your age or industry, there is one inalienable truth that unites us all –winning is awesome, and losing sucks. The joyous success of winning makes us feel happy, content and accomplished. And if you're in government sales, you know the satisfaction of knowing all of the work that went into your bid proposal was justified.
Rarely is there a sweet taste to be had when you lose. However, that doesn’t mean there is no value in the loss.
“It's often been said that you learn more from losing than you do from winning. I think, if you're wise, you learn from both. You learn a lot from a loss. You learn what is it that we're not doing to get to where we want to go.” – Morgan Wootten
Working off of the blanket assumption that losing the bid wasn’t what you were anticipating, you're probably wondering, "What's next?" There are a number of steps you should take that will create value for your organization moving forward.
3-Step Approach to a Bid Loss
The first thing you should do is request a debrief with the contracting officer. Depending on the specific agency, a debrief can be handled in a variety of ways – either in person, via conference call or by providing a hardcopy analysis of your bid proposal. Excluding government proposals in which lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) was the key award factor, most government debriefs provide a well-documented assessment of your proposal.
As such, there are key takeaways from the information in a debrief package and/or meeting that your organization can incorporate into your lessons learned, and utilize in your continuous improvement efforts.
Next, spend some time evaluating where you ranked against your fellow bidders, if such information was provided in the debrief. Assess if the competition aligned with what you predicted in your capture phase, and make adjustments as necessary to your industry intel to include any potential competition moving forward. It's important to develop an up-to-date knowledge base of your competitions' proposal and pricing strategies, features and benefits, as well as the differentiators that set you apart. Use this to your advantage in your next capture efforts.
Finally, keep a lifetime record of all wins and losses. It is imperative to implement continuous improvement measures over time to understand why you are losing. To continue to deliver the same proposal without ever incorporating feedback, recommendations, and lessons learned from previous loses, is a waste of valuable resources your organization could be utilizing elsewhere. A component of keeping a record of all wins and losses is identifying and tracking trends in both areas. For instance, are the debriefs continuing to address your management approach to opportunities? If so, in what areas is your management approach weak? If you’re unsure, do some research and look for samples of management approaches that align with your organization, but include components you may be missing. Include those in your proposals moving forward, and review if/how a debrief assesses that aspect moving forward.
While it may seem contrary to logic, there is a wasted opportunity in losing on a government bid response if you do nothing further to determine what lessons you can learn for future. Inaction means you’ve added no value to your process, no value to your capture and business development strategy, and no value to your ongoing proposal efforts.
However, in doing your homework following a loss, the resource cost of capture and proposal development has now increased significantly as you will continue to make the same errors on future proposals, receiving the same outcome. Don’t waste the loss. Learn from it.