Demonstrating performance

A recent post focused on describing relevant experience in proposals. This week, we’ll look at how to document your past performance.

Just to be clear: Experience refers to your past involvement on projects similar to the one on which you’re bidding. Performance refers to evidence of success.

Support versus proof

Some bidders have world-class records. They can demonstrate 100 percent on-time, on-budget delivery, six-sigma quality and high reliability. They have multi-year no-lost time accident metrics across all sites and zero regulatory compliance issues over many years.

Stats like this are proof of performance. If your company is in this happy position, simply cite your proofs of performance and move on to the next section.

But if you’re just building your track record or have past performance issues, you’ll need to substitute support for proof. Just one successful project can be used to support your performance claims.

Track your performance

You’ll find it much easier to cite past performance in a proposal if you’ve been tracking it in real time.

Start by deciding which measures fit the kind of work you do. Common examples include on-time, on-budget completion, safety record, regulatory compliance, challenges overcome, cost or time-saving innovations, performance bonuses won, industry awards, client letter or quotes, etc.

Next, set up a spreadsheet in Excel or another format. Use a row for each project and columns for basic items, such as location and client, contract value and final cost, and start and finish date, and then for the performance measures you’ve selected.

Last—and perhaps most important—make updating the spreadsheet part of someone’s job description.

Dealing with performance issues

Companies that have suffered performance lapses are sometimes tempted to ignore these and hope the prospect doesn’t notice. Nearly always, this is a bad strategy. All industries have active grapevines. Even if the lapse isn’t covered in the general press, word will still get around.

Avoid the temptation to sweep such issues under the carpet. Instead, acknowledge them, along with the steps taken (root cause analysis, organizational and/or process changes, etc.) and investments your company has made to prevent recurrence. If appropriate, explain how you addressed any harm the lapse caused your client. Cite any evidence your actions have produced positive results.

It’s worth the effort

It takes work to assemble this evidence. But having decided to bid, your goal is to get the most possible points for each section. Do not short change performance. It’s too important to your final score.

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