The slower construction market has created a challenging bidding environment increasingly defined by fierce competition and pressure to compete on price. Glazing subcontractors have been forced to perform a complicated balancing act of maintaining survivable profit margins while remaining competitive.
The following article provides tips on how to make a bid stand out, based on interviews with glazing firms and discussions during the 2013 Glazing Executives Forum.
1. Make Your Bid More Than a Number.
Among many contract glaziers there’s a sense that some general contractors simply flip right to the price in a bid. “Every proposal contains the same basic ingredient: price. Ultimately, for the success of your business and the industry, you want this to be the least significant factor that is reviewed,” says Paul Becks, executive vice president of National Enclosure Co. “We like to submit a holistic offer that provides credentials that show how our firm has demonstrated expertise in fulfilling the clients’ needs.”
Several glaziers recommend companies include a cover page on the bid proposal listing the key points of the bid. Companies can also encourage GCs to look at more than the total price by providing a base cost, with separate pricing for additional items. Providing specific price information for each item will highlight areas in which an alternate product option might be more appropriate, and can allow a GC to see if competitors are not bidding to specification.
“If a specification is expensive, or not used in this part of the country, bring it to the attention of the contractor, owner or architect,” says Donill Kenney, vice president of Palm Beach Glass Specialties. “Bid an alternate, in case other bidders don’t bid per specification.”
“Specifically detail any terms or conditions relevant to your bid,” adds Courtney Little, president of ACE Glass. And “specifically detail any deviations from plans, specifications or customer requests.”
2. Thoroughly Read the Scope of Work and All Bidder Instructions.
“Bid what the customers wants, how they want it—if you can ascertain it,” Little says.
“I get told on numerous occasions how incomplete some bids are that GCs receive,” adds Marty Richardson, sales manager for Metropolitan Glass Inc. “Know the scope; be thorough. You don’t want the GC to have a better understanding of your scope of work than you do.”
Firms should ensure that all instructions to bidders are followed. “I have been told in the past that some competitors either didn’t read them or ignored them. This makes their bid incomplete or non-responsive,” Richardson says.
3. Get Involved Early, and Stay Communicative.
“It’s the work that happens on the front end, prior to the bid date [that can set you apart],” according to Diana Bernal, marketing executive for Key Glass.
Some glaziers send out a bid scope several days in advance of the deadline, which lays out the bid proposal without the price. This opens the door for discussion of the bid and project requirements with the GC prior to the “11th hour, when that guy won’t have time to talk,” according to one attendee at the Glazing Executives Forum.
And if questions arise, “be responsive,” says Richardson.
4. Be Knowledgeable.
Know the products required to achieve the design, and be able to provide alternate solutions. On renovation projects, thoroughly research the building and all project requirements. And understand the scope of work for the other trades on the job. “If all we know is our own trade, then we’re going to be in trouble,” according to one GEF attendee.
5. Don’t Forget Logistics.
Explain how your company will complete the job, and who on your staff will manage the project. Palm Beach Glass provides estimated lead times in addition to product information. National Enclosure sometimes includes a “Means & Methods” section of the bid, detailing logistical concerns. Bids might also feature “staffing and include resumes, organizational charts and executive management plans,” Becks says.
With labor becoming an increasing problem among the glazing contractor community, several companies also recommend bids include details about staffing. “As the economy returns, we’re seeing problems sourcing labor,” according to one GEF attendee. “GCs are starting to appreciate assurances that subs will have the workforce for a project.”
6. Demonstrate Quality and Professionalism.
As the economy improves, quality service and professionalism will again serve as differentiators beyond price. “Good quality suppliers are being recognized again,” according to one GEF attendee.
Professional presentation of the bid and the company are important. “Use the GC’s bid form, if applicable,” Richardson recommends. Additionally, “the formatting needs to be consistent, professional and organized, reflecting the client’s need and request,” Becks says. “Following the agenda/order is beneficial for both the client and bidder. By doing this, the bidder is certain that all information has been included and the client is clear on the information provided.”
And, “clearly state who the customer can contact with questions,” adds Little.