One area where many companies fall short is asking for a Debrief after a contract award is made. If you have the option of an “Oral” vs. “Written” Debrief, first ask if you can have both. If it’s one or the other, always opt for a Written Debrief that you can share with your team.
Ask For a Debrief When You Lose
It can definitely take the wind out of your sails – and the sails of your team, when you lose a contract award. Everyone will experience this. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”. There isn’t an experienced company out there that has won 100% of the proposals they’ve submitted.
This is when your ego needs to take a back seat and ask for a Debrief. In most cases, you’ll receive a very detailed explanation of where you were strong, where you were weak, and where you missed the mark completely.
Unfortunately, because a Debrief can often be unflattering, only the boss or the Business Development (BD) Director will see this information. It is critical to share the Debrief with the entire team. Everyone needs to know how to get better for the next proposal and constructive criticism is the only way to learn. A Debrief may be very specific and in most cases, will itemize what you did wrong:
- Maybe your pricing was too high but everything else was excellent. Praise the team for doing a great job and get your rates down.
- Perhaps the Section Lead was an egomaniac (you?) and insisted on having things a certain way…which turned out to be the wrong way. Learn to listen and see where you came up short so it won’t happen again.
- Were all requirements addressed in a clear and compelling manner? Any area lacking will be identified. Even if you don’t totally agree, you’ll know what that particular customer is looking for so you can be successful with them in the future.
Ask For a Debrief When You Win
In many cases, when a team wins, they congratulate one another and move into the Transition Phase without a thought of asking for a Debrief. The thinking is that you won – so you must be great. But be assured, it’s very important to know why you won!
You may’ have done a lot right, but in some cases, you may have won by default…meaning another team could’ve been disqualified so the awarding agency really didn’t have a choice (so to speak) but to select you. In other words, you may have received the win by a very narrow margin.
Don’t assume that you did everything right. Find out from the source what was done well and where you may be lacking. This can help immensely, especially when working with a new customer. The Debrief will give you details and insight into your customer before you move into the Transition Phase and begin a relationship that, if executed well, can be mutually beneficial for years to come.
Share the Debrief With the Entire Team!
Anyone that touched the proposal should get the Debrief.
* Redact Pricing Information If Necessary