There are many ways to look at bidding. Bidding is a process. It’s a competition. It’s a sales presentation. You want to deliver value to the customer and at the same time earn a fair profit. Both parties want the same goal – a refreshing sanitary experience for the end-users. Bidding is a real balancing act!
A bidding request for portable sanitation services can come from every type of customer. As a result, every bid you make is unique.
For PROs, bidding is a key business skill that you can learn and continually improve the more you use it.
Make these considerations part of your bidding process to help generate winning bids and satisfied customers:
Separately, we’ll also review bidding on federal contracts.
Your bidding starts with your brand.
Your brand is how you present your company to the public. It is your unique message and your core values that make it stand out from your competitors.
At an early point in the bidding process, you will have to make a bid/no-bid decision. Use your brand to help decide if the job is right for you.
The job you bid on should fit your company profile. They should be in sync. Your bids will be on more solid footing when the jobs will bring out the best in your company. If not, you’re probably wasting time that could be better spent on other aspects of your business.
If you are undecided about a bid and how it fits your brand, it may help to review your business plan. Review your projected goals and timeline for growth. Are you at a point when you were planning to move into high-end events, for example? In that case, a potential job you wouldn’t have considered earlier is now exactly what you want to bid on.
Be self-aware and confident about your company brand when you bid.
Once you’ve decided to proceed with your bid, or if you still need more information, do your research. Bid requests usually give you all the information you need, but having additional background can be beneficial.
First, research the company or organization offering the project. Check out their websites and search for news articles that may offer some insight into the way they conduct business, such as their mission and values or news releases about their involvement in the community.
For a more balanced viewpoint, you can get a good idea of a company’s standing in the business community through the Better Business Bureau and by contacting your local Chamber of Commerce. For more personal information, network with your contacts in the community, and check social media sites for reviews and to network with others who have done work for them.
You may even have personal experience. If you’ve attended an event you are now bidding on, what did you notice? Was the event was well-organized, especially the portable sanitation? Have you seen previous worksites of the company that is putting the work up for bid? Were the units securely located? Easily accessible? Was the worksite generally clean? If you are bidding on a municipal job, have you worked with them before? Was the department well-run?
If possible, research the other bidders – your competitors. Follow the same routine – their websites, social media, networking, etc. Your goal is to know their strengths and weaknesses. You may be able to adjust aspects of your bid to counter their advantages and take greater advantage of their limitations.
Finally, research the local economic conditions. The Chamber of Commerce and local Economic Development organizations can be of great help here. If there is a construction boom, for example, it might be harder for construction companies to get the units they need, so they might be willing to pay a higher premium. Or, if a rainy spring results in a less productive growing season, the need for units in the agricultural market may be less.
Research can help you fine-tune your bid. It can alert you to any red flags that aren’t obvious from the bid itself, such as a company with a poor reputation. Research can boost your bid. Your knowledge of a company or organization shows them that you do your homework. You position yourself as responsible and well-prepared. They can assume that your dedication will likely carry over into the service you provide.
Here are some tips and strategies to help you evaluate bids and boost your chances.
You can save a lot of time by focusing first and foremost on bids that you feel most confident about. You’ll know a good opportunity when you see it. You can fulfill all the requirements of the bid. There are no scheduling conflicts with your other jobs. You may be familiar with and on good terms with the company, organization, municipality or individual asking for the bid. The bid matches the core values as set in your business plan. This is a “quality bid.”
If you have several opportunities to bid, put them in order of how well they fit your strengths, and devote more time to the bids that have the greatest chance for success. Bidding to your strengths doesn’t mean you have to abandon the other bids. It just means to keep your priorities in order.
However, if you’re not a perfect fit for a bid, but you know that the other bidders aren’t either, then the bid is an opportunity worth taking. That’s when additional research into other bidders can pay off.
This sounds obvious, but always look at your bid opportunities from a logistics standpoint. Do the math. You have x number of units. It will take x number of hours to deliver, set up and clean units. It will cost you x amount of dollars for fuel to transport the units and in dumping fees. You have x number of units committed to other jobs at the same time. You can expect to use x amount of supplies. You may have to pay your driver x dollars in overtime.
Maintaining control of your labor and material costs allows you to make a lean, precise bid, which could mean the difference between winning the bid or getting shut out. Also, you won’t find yourself in the situation where you have to absorb extra costs after you’ve been awarded the bid.
Winning a one-time bid is great. Winning a bid that keeps on giving you business is even better, such as public events, business get-togethers and holiday celebrations that are held regulary (monthly, quarterly, yearly).
Once you win the bid and get your foot in the door, you have the upper hand in future bids. It’s a lot less hassle for organizers to continue with vendors they know.
Call and ask to set up an appointment. A face-to-face meeting allows you to get to know the customer and to demonstrate your professionalism.
An important goal is not just for you to meet them, but for them to meet you. Arrive on time, and be prepared to talk about your company and answer their questions. Their questions and concerns are ways to get to know them better. Show your enthusiasm for your work and the work you’re bidding on. Come with questions that demonstrate you’ve studied the bid. Questions that can help focus your bid are:
Similar to the interview, a site tour offers the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting with the decision-makers. You can show them that you take preparation seriously by asking about traffic patterns, road closures and the location of the units in relation to the other aspects of the event. Arrive at the site looking your best – in a clean uniform if you wear one, truck washed, with one of your best units. If you can’t arrange a tour and you’re bidding on an event that occurs regularly, request a map of the previous event.
Once you’ve met with the decision-makers, keep the lines of communication open. Send a quick thank-you (phone, email or text) so they have your contact information handy. It’s not obtrusive, for example, to send a marketing email to announce an upgrade of your units or service. Don’t be pushy and overdo your messages.
How do you come up with that all-important dollar amount of your bid? Every bid is different, but we do have some recommendations.
PROs in the earliest stages of ownership may try this strategy because they’re just getting started in the business and need some experience to build on. But it’s simply unsustainable as a business practice – you can’t get anywhere. It’s also an unsatisfying experience. Other potential customers will expect the same low prices. Bidding at or below cost puts you in a hole from the start.
Knowing a price range or even the exact amount of the last successful bid for the same event or contract is a great start.
First, it will immediately tell you if you can make a competitive offer. Second, it can serve as a reference for current and future bidding. Calculate your bid separately from the ballpark figure and see where your figure lands.
All things being equal (there are no drastic changes to the contract, for example), your bid should be higher than the previous amount because you are “selling” better service. Were you on the low side or high side?
As mentioned above, start by taking an inventory of everything you will need for the bid: units, supplies, transportation, fees, manpower and time.
With your direct expenses computed, you next need to add indirect and fixed expenses for a more accurate cost of the project.
These are the costs of doing business that aren’t charged to a specific project, but rather contribute to all projects. They include insurance and advertising, for example. For additional information on the cost of doing business, click here. Some accounting software includes a feature to automatically generate these costs for your bid.
Lastly, add your profit markup to your final calculations. A successful event bid could result in an ongoing contract, so add a markup that reflects the value of your services. As above, accounting software may offer a markup system feature to help calculate this key requirement of your bid.
While price is certainly a key factor in winning a bid, every bidder will offer a dollar amount, probably close to yours. You need to differentiate your brand by showing how you deliver the best value for money.
Customers are usually willing to pay more when you have a reputation for quality. For construction and other industries, you may need to present your services as a trouble-free experience that the customers don’t have to think twice about. For business-oriented and public events, it may be your ability to deliver a premier customer experience.
In general, emphasize:
Emphasize how critical safety is in your company culture. If you can’t state it in the bid, say it in person during an interview or site tour. (It also helps to have a safety statement on your website.) You may need to add safety to your bid, such as adding extra time for cleaning if you have to maneuver your truck through crowds during the event.
Whether you win or lose the bid, there is still plenty of work to do.
When negotiating a long-term contract, include inflation in your calculations. Although there is no guarantee of accuracy, many prominent financial companies and organizations offer inflation forecasts that may be helpful.
If you can’t get an early signing, don’t take the repeat opportunity for granted. Your competitors will be coming in with new bids the next time around, so prepare to up your game, too.
With each bid, you add more information that can help in the future. Take an overview of your efforts. If you find yourself winning more event bids, for example, you may want to shift your emphasis to those market segments that clearly work for you. Or you may change your approach to categories that are less successful. Did your successful bids earn the profit you had expected?
Reviews can give additional information as to how users perceive your units, sinks, accessories and service. Take your users’ opinions into consideration when you make decisions about upgrading inventory.
Becoming a federal contractor is a whole different ballgame than bidding on local projects. It’s a great opportunity if your company is ready for the challenge. Fortunately, the federal government and Small Business Association (SBA) offer many resources to help. An excellent start is the SBA’s Contracting Guide, available at https://www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-guide. Let’s review some basics.
The two major categories of government contractors are prime contractors (who make bids) and subcontractors. In order for your company to be either, you need to:
Also, the government tries to award a significant percentage of jobs to:
To help you decide if federal contracting is good for your business, read “Prepare Your Business for Federal Contracting in 8 Steps” at https://www.usa.gov/become-government-contractor.
According to NerdWallet, the government works only with businesses that are profitable (have positive cash flow) and have been established for two years or more.
The main resource to find bidding opportunities for federal contracts is the Contract Opportunities Search Tool at https://beta.sam.gov/.
You may also choose to become part of the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules Program at https://www.gsa.gov/. GSA connects government buyers with contractors. “Getting onto the GSA Schedule” means you’ve been approved to do business with the government.
Information on finding contracts and subcontracting opportunities is also available at https://www.sba.gov/federal-contracting/contracting-guide/how-win-contracts.
Another suggestion is to become a subcontractor for another company that already contracts with the government. It can be an excellent introduction to government contracting.
The SBA offers counseling and training resources for federal contracting, including:
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