Let’s assume you have responded to a janitorial request for proposal (RFP) for an office building in your community. In many cases, the person conducting the meeting to decide on a contractor is the same person you have been contacting throughout the year (or longer) to earn an opportunity to participate in the bid process.
Many times your contact has done his/her due diligence and determined that you are qualified to clean the organization's facility. You may even have instilled confidence in that person that your company is indeed the right one for the job. He/she may have even told you as much, but here is where many cleaning contractors go wrong: This contact needs to sell you to his/her management.
Virtually the entire decision-making process is going to happen behind the scenes, and if your contact wants you for the job, you are going to have to help sell your company to these behind-the-scenes administrators.
To help your contact—and help you win the contract—you need to know how these behind-the-scenes decision-makers are evaluating and what they are looking for in your proposal. Among the deciding factors are the following.
One effective way to communicate your qualifications and experience is to provide the names and locations of comparable facilities you are now cleaning and how long you have been servicing these facilities. Additionally, here is one suggestion most cleaning contractors do not consider: Provide the names of an account or two that you have lost. Explain what went wrong and how your company learned from the situation. Do not for a second believe that the prospect feels you are perfect and thinks you have never lost an account.
Make sure to complete each section of the RFP properly; this includes answering a questionnaire, providing references and insurance certificates or verification, and providing all the other information the potential client has requested for your proposal.
It has been said the IRS does not read letters; instead they read forms. Well, the same is true with RFPs. Stick to the RFP form. Do not revise the format or provide altered specifications. Adding information the client has not requested—or providing information in a format separate from the one presented in the RFP—may actually work against you.
Additionally, do not include marketing materials. You have already been qualified to participate in the RFP process. This may lead the potential client to eliminate your proposal.
A cost analysis can help the customer to better understand how you determined the bid amount. But it is also important for you and your business. The cost analysis provides you and your customer with a working estimate of the following direct and indirect overhead expenses:
And, of course, you also need to work in a profit percentage.
Know that each proposal will be reviewed based on the items just mentioned. The more complete it is, the better your chances and the easier it is for your original contact to sell your company to the behind-the-scenes decision-makers.
It is also important to know that the decision-makers will not just look at the price page and choose the lowest bidder. While that still may happen, astute building managers will look closely at all aspects of your proposal, and most certainly, the cost analysis. Remember this: Even though the price page may be the first page they review, if there is adequate information to show the benefits of doing business with your company, you will avoid making the final decision a matter of price. Rather, it will be about which is the right company to do the job.
Here is an example: I was involved in the hiring process to select a contract cleaning company to maintain a theme park location. Four bids were submitted. The charges were about the same for three of them. However, one bid was 18 percent lower than all the others.
Working closely with the cost analysis of the least expensive bid, I realized we were not comparing apples-to-apples. Their proposal, had we focused on the price page, would actually have been 10 percent higher than the other bids.
Expect the same scrutiny with every proposal you submit.