There’s no such thing as losing a bid.
I have an almost visceral response when someone calls me and says they “lost” a job they bid on.
Usually, I reply with something snarky like, “Really? Did you win it first? Did the client sign the deal, write the check, and then snatch it away from you?” Of course not.
You didn’t lose the job.
You just didn’t win it.
But you still have an opportunity! Here’s what I mean:
Connect with the Client
So you didn’t win your bid — what do you do now?
You call the client.
Instead of focusing on winning bids, focus on winning clients. If a client just chose someone else for the job, calling them to figure out what you could do better is an opportunity to build trust and show your willingness to receive feedback for improvement.
Pick up the phone.
Talk to the client.
Gather some background information with questions like:
- How could we have improved our offer?
- What was more compelling to you in the offer you selected?
People are generally well-intentioned and want to help you improve. If you ask for self-improvement suggestions, they’ll want to help.
In the course of your conversation, you may find out that even though you didn’t win, you were a strong second choice.
That’s a good thing.
Resist the temptation to think, “Now, I’m even more disappointed we were so close and didn’t win!”
Don’t go there. It’s time to reframe the situation.
Second place isn’t losing.
It’s significant if the customer goes to the trouble of telling you that you were second. No one says, “That was a great showing, but you were in seventh place.”
If they tell you that you were in second place, that means something. You were next up!
The next opportunity is yours to lose.
How Second Place Wins
Second place is not code for “first loser.” In fact, with new clients, second place can be better than first place.
It gives the client a chance to consider you in the wings. And it puts more pressure on the company that won the bid to execute the job perfectly.
You’re the understudy now. And if their first choice flops, you’re their backup.
One of my most memorable sales moments was a second place story. I’d gone through all the trouble of trying to win the gig. I thought I was compelling, but I didn’t win the job.
I called the client, who told me, “You’re second place.”
I could have stomped my feet.
I could have lowered my price.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I said,“Thank you for sharing that with me. What could I have done better?”
The client told me, “I don’t think you could have done anything better. But we’re in a position where we need to stick with the incumbent.”
“Great. I’ll be here if you need anything. By the way, I’d be happy to send you the information we talked about for the job. You can share it with my competitor and it’ll help your event.”
“That’s awesome. Thank you.”
So I sent them the piece of information to help them out.
A few weeks later, the client called me and asked, “Are you still available? Can you do the gig?”
Being in second place — knowing they had someone to replace the company they chose — meant they scrutinized their first choice even more. In this particular case, they’d chosen an incumbent. But they put the job out to bid for a reason. When the incumbent stumbled, they had a backup.
Second place isn’t losing. Second place means you have a chance.
Maybe not on this job, but certainly on the next one.
Choose Clients, Not Projects
When you focus on winning clients rather than winning projects, you keep your options open. Your best clients will be those who offer you opportunities for years to come.
So you didn’t win your first bid with a new customer.
Learn from it!
If you came in second, you’ll probably have a chance at the next one.
Don’t shut the door on the opportunity just because you didn’t win one project. This is a marathon — not a sprint. It’s great to get the short-term wins and earn business, but the clients you keep for a really long time probably had you in the second place slot at the beginning.
Don’t let second place get you down. Look at it as a chance to win over a client that will be around for years to come.
Do you have a second place story? Leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear it.