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Dilemma: Competitive Bidding, or Merely a Lottery

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The scenario:

A public organization puts out a request for proposal, and you are one of a limited number of consultants invited to bid.

You've worked for this client before, so you have a pretty good idea of who the other three or four other bidders might be. You know their strengths and weaknesses, and you are firmly convinced that your strengths far outweigh those of the other bidders.

You put your heart and soul into the proposal, offering the latest efficiencies you've put into place through technology. You even offer a couple of additional deliverables to the specifications that you know will be of significant value to the organization, enhancements made possible through your advanced software and considerable knowledge of this particular industry. You're confident that your approach is so far superior that the other bidders will be left eating your dust.

In fact, you're right. The bids were opened and of the four bidders, you and another were VERY close on price, one of the other two bids was absurdly high, the other absurdly low. Your prospective client was truly impressed by your proposal compared with the other, and said so. Because the two bids were so close, you and the other bidder (whom you don't know for sure, but have a pretty good idea) were asked to submit a sealed "best and final" offer. Your enhancements would have increased the value of the deliverables by nearly $5,000, yet you lost the contract because your bid price was several hundred dollars more than the other bidder.

Whatever happened to QBC (Quality Based Contracting)? After all, this *wasn't* purely price, because one bidder meeting the minimal requirements came in substantially lower. No adequate response. Perhaps this was "wired" right from the beginning. Win some, lose some.

A couple of days later, a telephone call. Would you be interested in bidding on another project? Of lesser amount and not requiring nearly the sophistication of the first project. A commodity-type service that many other firms could easily deliver as well.

Consultants? What would you do? Dutifully prepare a proposal and hope to get "lucky" this time, maybe in the hopes of getting your foot back in the door? Tell the prospective client to take a flying leap?

Clients? What might have been your rationale for accepting merely adequate work, rather than receiving additional information and services that would have enhanced your competitiveness and taken you to a higher level of capabilities? If your selection process is based purely on cost, why would you ask a consulting firm to bid on work that could be done by temporary workers hired from a personnel agency?

Please visit our Web site to reply or send an e-mail to the editor, with "Bid or lottery" in the subject line. By interacting with each other on issues we all encounter, we'll all learn. Looking forward to your responses!

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