The cardinal sin of any government contractor is to lose the bread-and-butter contract that they rely on as a major revenue stream. This is a job they should know inside out. They have likely bonded with the customer and can recite the customer’s challenges and hot buttons with their eyes closed. All they have to do is write a compliant proposal that explains why their solutions are still the best option for their customer.

Despite this, incumbents still struggle to defend their positions, especially in the volatile services market. Incumbents can prevent many upsets by avoiding some of the following common mistakes:

Complacency. Don’t bet that a customer’s love for an incumbent is strong enough to retain the contract. The customer may like an incumbent’s staff, or they may prefer to avoid risks associated with changing vendors. But does the customer actually love the company? What value does the incumbent bring? Is the incumbent’s value enough to convince the customer to stick with them even if competitors offer better prices or services?

Fantasy vs. reality. An incumbent’s challenges are on display for newcomers to pick apart, while newcomers are free to make fantastic, unverifiable promises. The incumbent knows the on-the-ground realities, and they’re less likely to offer the kind of alluring solutions a newcomer might. The customer could be seduced by the non-incumbent’s “fresh perspective” and buy into their claims of innovation and improvement.

Fear to claim improvements. While newcomers can claim any innovations and improvements they please, an incumbent is tied to what they are already doing. The incumbent might think, “If we drastically reduce our staff to do the same work, what would the customer say?” The customer may respond, “Why haven’t you done it with less staff to start with?”

Putting the proposal second. For incumbents, Murphy’s Law seems to always place the most time-sensitive project smack dab in the middle of a proposal. An incumbent’s best personnel are busy on a customer site, and the incumbent is afraid to rock the boat by asking for them to be excused to work on a proposal. They focus on delivery, betting that a happy customer is more likely to award the proposal to them. As a result, the incumbent’s proposal quality is lower than the competitors’ proposals.

Same old proposal. It is tempting to reuse the old proposal. After all, it won, didn’t it? But the times, the circumstances, and the customer have changed by the time the new proposal is due. New circumstances warrant a responsive proposal, not rehashed boilerplate.

Cost challenges. Salaries of key personnel grow over time, and price escalations can further restrict an incumbent’s ability to offer a competitive price. Newcomers can be more aggressive with their pricing, while an incumbent feels stuck with the hand of cards they have been dealt.

Want to make sure your team isn’t suffering from complacency? Have our experts work with you on your next proposal. We bring fresh eyes to evaluating you against your competition, and we will make sure you’re offering the best value to the customer.

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