“Sorry, but your proposal was unsuccessful. On this occasion we have opted to go with another company. Thank you for your time and we will consider you for future projects”. Response: “Thanks for the email and for letting us know. In order to assist us on future proposals can you tell us who was awarded the project and on what criteria?” Response: “Sorry we can’t divulge that information. Thank you for your time” – Sound familiar? Welcome to the bridge and here is a 5 gallon drum of petrol and a match!
When you run your own business it is very hard not to take the above rejection personally. However in order to stay positive, focused and to see the bigger picture, you must detach yourself emotionally from your business. You must understand that business is business and you will win some and loose some. If you fail to do this and fail to acknowledge possible reasons why you have lost a contract, you will end up burning bridges and loosing even more future work.
“Never burn your bridges”, my father would always say to me when I started my first business back in 2000. “The business world is a small place and you just never know who knows who, or when the very person who opted for someone else on a project may need you in the future.” It is an attitude that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind every time we submit a fee proposal. Of course in my business we continually evaluate our approach to proposals and analyse if we could be doing anything extra that would help win us the work. However sometimes, it is not meant to be. Sometimes decisions are made before you type the first words of your proposal!
Why We Never Ever Burn Our Bridges?
Not so long ago we lost out on a project we were 95% sure we were going to be awarded. However due to circumstances outside our control, we were seriously let down and the project went to one of our competitors. It was a high profile project that we really wanted to win, so we put a lot of effort into the proposal. Loosing it was a bitter pill to swallow. It was extremely tempting to offload our disappointment, but tongues were tied and the 5 gallons of petrol and the match remained untouched.
Instead we offered the client our time if they needed any advice on that particular project. As hard as it may be to suggest this to a client, especially on a project you have just lost, it will breed confidence in them. It also gives them the knowledge and comfort that if something goes wrong they have somewhere to turn to. We also made sure to let them know we were appreciative of the chance to quote and told them that despite being disappointed with the decision, we had no problem being asked to quote on future projects.
Two months later we were contacted by the same client to help resolve an issue on that very project. It was a very small amount of work but it allowed us to show them what we had to offer and how we work. This small amount of work led to questions being asked by the client of the previous work produced by the previous firm. This ultimately led to us being requested to carry out more work on the same project.
Now, this is the point when you drive home the advantage. It is not a time to think ‘I told you so’. It is time to prove they were right coming back to you. It is the time for you to prove why they should have opted for your proposal in the first place. We pulled out all the stops on this next round of work. We went that extra mile and proved why we are considered one of the best at what we do.
Roll forward another two months to the present, and we have another far larger project pending with the same client. The big questions is though – Was the fact that we kept the bridge open last time around going to stand in our favour for this proposal? Will keeping the bridge open be that extra 1% that secures this project for us?
We’ll soon find out, but if we’re unsuccessful, we will take the higher ground again. We will present the same offer that we did the last time and we will make sure that the bridge remains open for the next opportunity that may come across it.