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Be Prepared for the Returning Project

So you don’t win every project proposal – or your organization doesn’t win every project they go after.

In fact, unless you’re at the top end in your industry, you may only win 2-10% of the projects you go after. We’ve all had those projects that we really wanted badly and spent a significant amount effort proposing and negotiating and maybe even a little begging… but still they got away from us. Maybe the potential client kept the project in house or went with another vendor. You priced it out accurately, you documented the work, you showed your experience, you wooed the client, you probably even came back with a lower price if you really wanted the project. But in the end they didn’t choose you for some reason. You can ask them why – and you should because they may help you next time with this client or with your next proposal.

At the end of the day, the other deal that they were mulling over from another vendor or the implied savings by taking the work inside their own shop was just too good to pass up so they said “no” to you and went with the alternative. It happens. I’m an independent consultant, I consider myself to be very experienced and fairly successful, and I get told “no” a lot. It happens. We can’t let it get us down or damage our egos. Because every time we hear “yes” – and hopefully that’s fairly often – someone else is being told “no”, too. Someone has to lose. The problem is, deep down you know the quality of your work and the fairness that you priced that work at.

So, what next? The only thing you can do is move on to the next potential client and so on and so on. But if you are as experienced and as good as you think and hopefully know you are… and your organization as the right amount of talent, experience, and solid project delivery reputation… then be prepared at all times to have that client who rejected you come back to you as soon as their “alternative” plan doesn’t take off as expected.

If and when they do come back to you…

Be ready, but different.

You need to be ready, of course, but your old plan or proposal doesn’t work any more – at least not if the work has already started. In fact, you may stand to make even more revenue and an even better profit margin when you go to reprice the remainder of the project. Remember, you may be taking over a mess and there will be hidden elements to this mess. There is no need to price it to win it. Now you need to price it to make some money and truly do the project right. You probably have the client at your mercy, but don’t take advantage of it – you want to win them for the long haul and have them appreciate it… not regret it.

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Give them something extra.

The client came back to you and they learned a lesson in the process. Don’t rub it in. In fact, go overboard in showing them how pleased you are to have received their business after you didn’t get it the first time around. Give them something for free…perhaps a deliverable, or an onsite project team member, or training on the final solution. Something that won’t go overboard and cause you to not make a good profit, but rather something that does at least show some decent value, thought and appreciation.

Try something new.

Do you or your organization have an area of interest and innovation but not – or maybe any – experience with it? Include it in the new proposal or possibly offer it as a new concept or addition to the project. I don’t have much experience with virtual desktop interfaces or white papers, but I knew the client had interests and needs there so when they came back to me I offered to provide that service as well. It not only made the client happy, it gave me experience with two things I wanted to try and made money for me then and in the future as well. Win-win. Try something new and be innovative. You’ll likely perform better on it than you fear – because you are a professional and your organization works hard to succeed, not to fail. Your project client will find that interesting and wonder why they didn’t stick with you in the first place.

Look to the future.

Finally, think about the future. Always be thinking about the future. It’s not always about today, or getting the client on board now, or getting the client that you lost back on board and wanting your work. It’s about keeping them for the next project down the road and so on and so on. So price it fair, show gratitude that they came back to seek out your services and never say “I told you so.” Be professional and always have that eye on the future projects they may be bringing to you.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is you did your best to win the first time around. The key to getting back what was originally lost is to be patient and know you priced yourself and your services properly. The lack of confidence will show if you can’t just let it go when you lose. Wish them well and tell them the door is always open if their plans change. That gives them confidence and helps them to understand that there are no hard feelings and you still want their business whether the need arrives on this project or the next.

What about the readers out there? What have been your experiences with customers saying “no” and then turning around and changing their mind in a week, or a month or after a big failure with the other chosen organization? How did you handle it? Please share and discuss.

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at

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