Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Did We Win?

by David Whitemyer, AIA
As we begin 2014, take a moment to assess what your firm has done RIGHT.

It’s fairly common practice for A/E firms to request a debriefing from potential clients after submitting a losing proposal. This makes sense. The debriefing lets you know about the weaknesses and errors in your proposal and/or interview so that you don’t make the same mistakes in future efforts. But doesn’t it make even more sense, after winning a project, to find out what the strengths and highlights were in your proposal, so that you can repeat them?

Another reason to find out exactly why you won is to ensure that you manage the client’s expectations and keep them happy during the project. You’ll want to deliver on the promises in your proposal – especially if that’s what sold them! – and to enhance your strengths.

Most clients won’t turn down an opportunity to give you a debriefing – whether for a lose or win. In fact, with federal government clients, they’re required to give you a debriefing if you ask. FAR 15.506 states that if you make a request within three days of the win or lose notification, the client must provide formal feedback on your proposal.

There’s no trick to figuring out what to ask the client after you’ve won. The questions are almost the same as when getting feedback after a loss. “What were our strengths?” What were our weaknesses?” Here are a few suggestions for what to ask after you’ve won a project.

     What was the main thing about our proposal that made our firm stand out?

     Did we have the lowest price? If not, how did our price compare with other proposals?

     Did our proposal adequately respond to everything in the RFP?

     Was there anything about our project team that gave you comfort or concern?

     Did the proposal’s writing style or visual quality stand out in any way?

     Did our proposal include any fluff or boilerplate language that we should’ve left out?

     Even though we won, do you have any recommendations of things we could’ve done differently?

     Are the other upcoming opportunities for which we could submit another proposal?

After getting a debriefing from the client, it’s essential to share the feedback with your firm. Share it with those in the marketing and business development teams, of course, but also make sure that you share it with the team and project manager who will be the client’s primary face and contact with your firm throughout the project.

David Whitemyer, AIA, is a Contributing Editor at PSMJ Resources, Inc., a licensed architect, and project manager at a Boston-area design firm. He can be reached at dwhitemyer@psmj.com.

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