I was on the hot seat. I’d already burned through $50,000 in overhead budget. The Executive Vice President had flown 1500 miles to question me face-to-face because I had asked him for another $50,000. He asked, “Are you going to win this?” I answered, “Sir, it’s already won.”
Confidence and Risk
We Had Already Won
My mind was saying: “…because our competition gave up today.” The Air Force had issued the Request for Proposal (RFP) months before; the three-volume proposal writing was already wearing everybody down. The prize was a $35-million-dollar five-year contract to provide engineering services to the Air Force.
The Air Force was not making it easy on the bidders. The Air Force procurement office had just released the third RFP “amendment”. In government contracting “RFP amendment” means “drop everything and get ready to change your 300-page proposal”. The Air Force had shown signs there would be more amendments. We needed more overhead budget to keep going.
Was I Going To Give Up?
I believed “my competition gave up today”. Either that day or sometime soon during what would turn out to be eight amendments over eight more months, I believed my competition would give up. If they didn’t give up publicly and withdraw, I knew that one or more of them would at least give up mentally. They’d become less diligent responding to the amendments. Or they would not have the guts to ask for more overhead budget to keep going this long. Or they’d be unsuccessful at getting more budget, since they couldn’t be convincing to themselves or their bosses that they could win the $35 million.
Not like I could be. Because our evidence told us we’d already won.
You Need Endurance and Grit
We could endure because we’d already won. But we’d already won because we’d already endured. We had already done the longest, hardest work of the project: knowing the deep, often unspoken, needs of the client, and satisfying that need. Even when it was hard to do and required endurance and grit. (You’ll enjoy what the latest research has to say about grit.) We had endured and already done the hardest work.
Because Endurance Makes the Risk Less Risky
As the months passed, we kept looking for unspoken needs. We kept satisfying the client. We endured. But we knew we were well thought of by the clients, both the user buyer and the purse-strings buyer, so it made enduring easier and the risk less risky. [The technical buyer stayed a wild card; you can hear about “Dan the Contracts Man” in my TEDx Talk of 2014!]
It was all a humongous effort, but it was worth it because…
My Competition Gave Up Today
You’re not going to give up, are you? You won’t give up just because the process got more uncertain, will you? It was always uncertain, but you worked your plan to obtain more data and act on the data. Are you still doing that? Still working your plan? Still satisfying the deepest needs?
You won’t give up just because the process got longer, will you? Don’t be silly. Either you’ve won this thing already, or you have a plan to close all the gaps, knock down all the red flags, and satisfy the clients’ deepest needs. In which case, you’ve already won.
Don’t give up.
And by the way…
Click “comment” above and tell us about a time you didn’t give up.
Or about a time you did give up but you remember the lesson you learned. I look forward to the chat.