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Becoming an Invited Bidder

07/16/2009 by Kathleen Carper

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If you are new to a certain area, and want to expand your company to public works, how do you go about becoming an invited bidder on certain jobs?

Ahhhh, the million dollar question — this is what everyone really wants to know. What IS the trick to becoming an invited bidder?

Like everything else in life, if there is truly a trick, those who know it are keeping it to themselves. The reality is that being invited to bid is much like being invited to a party. You are invited because someone knows you or knows of you and thinks that you just might add something of interest or value to the thing that is important to them at the time, be it the project or the party.

It all comes down to reputation. If you have been around for a while, then chances are that folks know you and know what you can do. If you are known for your quality work, reasonable rates, timely delivery and high ethics, chances are you will have no shortage of offers to bid on projects that are in your area of expertise. On the other hand, if you are renowned for your antics swinging from chandeliers after one too many margaritas, you may be invited to the party, but that does not necessarily mean you will be at the top of the invited bidders list.

However, given the current economic conditions, even the best in the business may need to try a new approach or two to stay in the game. This is even more important if you are new to an area, are adding a new service to your repertoire, or are realizing that the margarita-chandelier habit is taking a toll. If any of these situations apply, then you may need to build, rebuild or enhance your reputation, and that means investing in some good old-fashioned public relations.

TIP 1 — Read, read, read!
Find out through local publications and online sources what is happening now in your area and consider how that may influence what will happen in the future. For example, if you read that a local manufacturer will be expanding operations and adding manufacturing space, do some research to find out who the decision makers are in that company so you can get some face time with them. Keep in mind, though, by the time news of this kind is published, contracts may already be signed. According to Jeff Toebe, Vice President of Estimating at McCarthy Building Cos. Southeast Division, “the goal is to learn about projects on the front end.” How to do that? Develop relationships.

TIP 2 — Identify at least one organization to join, such as Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., (ABC).
Membership in an industry organization will help keep you up-to-date with what is going on in your field and is a great way to meet like-minded people who have similar interests and a common purpose. However, participation is key. If your goal is to win business, you need to show people what you can do. Therefore, simply joining an organization is not enough. As Bill Anderson, President of the Georgia chapter of ABC explains, “You have to become involved in the organization. Only by being active can you develop relationships with others in the industry, and success is all about the relationships with the owners, developers and subcontractors.”

TIP 3 — Become a “go to” resource.
Use your area of expertise to inform and educate others. Opportunities abound to teach or present at community colleges, technical schools, associations, high schools and civic groups — you just need to contact the organization, explain what you want to do and find out the requirements. Then, when designing your presentation, be creative — try to relate it to subjects that address current national or regional trends and that will be relevant and meaningful to your local audience. Also, incorporate hands-on elements that require activity and interaction to make the time your audience spends with you enjoyable and memorable.

TIP 4 — Use technology to your advantage.
Create your own email newsletter that you can send weekly or monthly to the many contacts you are amassing through your public relations efforts. Or, create a blog that allows reader comments and questions. Focus written content on issues of importance to readers and present it in an easy to read, conversational tone. Keep it brief, perhaps using a single theme each issue/entry.

TIP 5 — Introduce yourself in your own backyard, so to speak.
If possible, use your particular skills to help your neighbors, school district, civic group or favorite charity. This is a win-win opportunity for all involved — not only will it help to get your name out there and arm you with references, it will also help others and foster goodwill. As Jeff Toebe explains, you need to become a real part of your community. “It is not just about making money, it is about making a difference. Get out and give back.

To Summarize: In order to remain viable in the construction industry these days, much less competitive, you need to constantly develop relationships, build your brand and maximize your presence. By incorporating even one of these tips into your business development strategy, you will be ahead of many others in your field.

On the other hand, you can always seek inspiration and solace in Margaritaville…

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