BD tips and insights

Lost proposals…was your price really too high?

For many prospective clients, the fastest and easiest way to tell you that they’re not proceeding with your proposal, tender or bid is to say “sorry  –  the price is too high”.

price tags

Was your price really ‘too high’?


Sometimes this is the entire story.

Other times, it is simply a quick way to avoid saying what’s really the problem  –  or, even thinking through why they’re not comfortable to go ahead with you.

Occasionally, it won’t even be true.

Action you can take following a ‘price too high’ bid loss

Price may, indeed, be the reason you’re missing out.  If it is, you’d be well advised to find out more, rather than just leaving it at that. If price isn’t the real problem, it would also be a great idea to learn more.

So, when you are at the receiving end of the “it was your price” line, try asking for some more information. It may be illuminating.

Push for a formal debrief or at the very least an informal ‘off-record’ chat with someone in the know.

Also see JMA’s guide to tender, bid & proposal debriefing.

Use your debrief or chat as an opportunity to show genuine and respectful interest in how your prospective client came to their decision; it can be a great relationship builder.

Careful probing, intent listening, and fair interpretation will give you valuable insights into:

  • competitive pricing realities
  • parameters within which your prospective client is making their decision
  • how this person/organisation assesses value
  • how to frame future pricing proposals to resonate with your market.

Factors potentially at work in the ‘price too high’ bid loss scenario

You’ll uncover all sorts of information, perhaps including one or some of these factors at work:

Maybe they were a poor fit client from the start?
And wouldn’t value your work or have the capacity to pay.
Try qualifying the ‘opportunity’ better before you bid.

Competition has heated up
A new entrant or established competitor has decided to compete hard on price to win work.

A competitor is offering work below their cost of production
Maybe it won’t last long, maybe they’re in trouble, or maybe they’re just “loss leading” to win a new client in the expectation that future work will be at a better rate.

Your competitor is offering an essentially different service or solution
Maybe you weren’t properly briefed  –  alternatively, they may have missed the plot completely.

Your inclusions may be different
Perhaps you’re including unnecessary items outside the brief, or maybe the competitive alternative is shortcutting and neglecting essentials.

The prospective client may not want the “Rolls Royce” level of service you’re offering
The economy four-cylinder model may be what they have in mind, at that price level.

They’re not making a “like for like” comparison.
Maybe your prospective client doesn’t want to  –  more likely, they don’t know how.

A competitor has come up with an alternative service and price
…which does the job at a price you simply can’t match.
Time to look hard at your work process, technology, and overheads to identify opportunities for efficiency gains.

Market price has changed
What was the “going rate” may be no longer – perhaps not the right market segment for your future.

Maybe you simply didn’t sell yourself well
Your proposal was rushed, too generic, missed the mark…

If you’ve put the effort into a proposal, and then missed out, you owe it to yourself and your firm to find out why.

If price is cited as the culprit, take a couple of deep breaths and patiently find out more to inform a better proposals and more compelling selling in the future.

What next

You may also want to check out these other blogs: Size of the prize: how to dimension tender, bid and proposal opportunities and Pricing lessons from a Big Six pricing specialist.

Or, if you need advice on competitively pricing your proposals or making sense of a loss, please get in touch.

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