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There are three dimensions on which you measure a successful project, which are whether the project was finished on time, on budget and within spec. On time refers to whether you met your delivery schedule, on budget refers to whether you stayed within your defined dollar amounts and within spec refers to whether you met the requirements of the job, which will be defined differently for every project.

Traditionally, people have said that the best you can do is meet two out of three. If you hold to the budget and deliver the requirements, they say, there tends to be a problem with the schedule. Or vice versa.

I say that’s a myth. You CAN deliver on all three dimensions, keep your customers happy and grow a successful business. As long as you’re clear about what you can do.

In the bidding process, the important thing for us as contractors to understand is our customers’ expectations. Are they more sensitive to price? Point out that in order to keep their costs down they may need to revise their requirements.

In these times, we can only assume that the government will choose based on price, even if we’d rather they choose based on the quality of our work or our suitability for the job. And quite frankly, that means we may not win the contract.

The worst thing you’ll want to do is under-bid to please a price-sensitive customer, and then force yourself to sacrifice quality, speed or performance in order to do the job at that rate.

It is your responsibility to educate your customer on the trade-offs of choosing the lowest price option. It doesn’t means they have to sacrifice quality or speed, but you may need to lower their expectations so they’re more realistic.

I want my customer to know and understand why he’s choosing me. If he’s choosing me because he knows I’m going to deliver the right quality for the low price he has to spend, I can convince him that I’m the right person to hire. Sometimes, I may even convince him that he wants/needs a big requirement at a high quality, as long as he also understands that will cost a higher price and/or take longer.

If you were bidding to mow a the lawn of the White House, for example, coming in cheapest won’t really help if all you’ve got is a push mower. Not only will the same job take you much longer to complete than someone with a riding mower (mowing the North and South lawns alone takes eight hours, according to the Huffington Post), the quality won’t compare. And you can bet that quality is the most important dimension of success for this job; that lawn has to look perfect. And that might not be the cheapest or fastest option.

In order to succeed amongst your competition, you need to understand what’s important to your customers and frame your offer to meet their most pressing needs.

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