A fellow proposal professional, S.W., (whom I’m currently mentoring) received the following mail:
“We met at [industry show] and I got your card. I just found out about a government bid I want to pursue. I’d like you to manage the response for me!”
When S.W. asked what his budget was, that person said: “Oh, I don’t have any money to pay you but if you write it for free, I’ll pay you if/when we win.”
No doubt, many of you who provide proposal support services have had a similar request. I have certainly heard this a fair number of times.
I’ve been struggling with a good analogy for this. Perhaps it’s like asking a personal trainer to train you for free, agreeing to pay for their services if you win the body building contest in which you plan to compete. Or how about asking a painter to paint your house for free, agreeing to pay them if/when the house sells.
Either analogy highlights something Jon and I have discussed for many years. That is, that while proposals can have a significant impact on the probability of winning, the proposal itself is only one component (of the long list of factors, what I refer to as ‘the components of the win) which a client evaluates when making their bid decision.
When S.W. and I discussed this, we agreed the best course of action with this (probably not) potential client, was to provide a bit of education as to the role proposals play in winning an opportunity. And to then explain that the service provided is charged by the hour and is payable whether the bid is successful, with a bonus to be paid if/when the opportunity is won.