Why did your team win the work?

Congratulations! You won the job! Obviously your firm was the best fit. Working on the proposal all weekend without pay was worth it!

Alternately, you lost. My condolences. Working all weekend seems like a pretty bad idea right now, doesn’t it?

Do you know why you won the job? If you were not involved in creating the proposal, you need to find out what the critical aspects of the bid were. I’ve evaluated a lot of proposals and written many more. You would be amazed how non-scientific the final decision can be. So what was important to the client? Don’t assume that what you value is what your client values. See if the account team can provide some insight.

You Met the Clients’ Risk Tolerance

Have you ever heard the phrase, “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM”? It means that some firms are hired because they are a non-controversial choice. Hiring a well-established firm with a good reputation is judged as safe.

“Safe” firms usually provide a well-established process and methodology, lots of Project Management support, and they are excellent at managing their clients to work within the bounds of the contract. I have hired “safe” UX firms when our client team needs more management than my team or I can provide; when I suspect that they are likely to go off the rails.

In other situations where I was augmenting my team, or where I thought that the client/product team needed a little shaking up (even when they hadn’t asked), I would hire firms who approached problems non-traditionally. That took more more internal sales attention from me, management effort from my team, but was worth it in the end.

Clients will signal strongly if they want to be pushed out of their comfort zone. The trick is to know where those boundaries are, and which comfort zone they want to leave – research methods, design methods, or (gasp!) the outcome. A radical idea for a financial app means different things to a bank and to a start-up.

You Have a Strong Account Team

Congratulations. You are likely getting a lot of work. Are the same people who sold the work doing the work or handing it off?

If the Account team who nailed the sale is not the execution team, you need to manage that transition from Sales to Delivery. Ask the account team what they promised before your project kick off meeting.

Great Project Fundamentals

You need to know what your client liked about your proposal, and over-deliver on that part:

  • Budget: Were you the lowest bidder? Highest? Does your client understand the true scope and what is going to trigger a change request?
  • Timeline: If yes, then let’s hope you were realistic in proposing the timeline, and not just providing the timeline that they asked for.
  • People: Did you name the people who will be doing the work? Clients do notice.
  • Process: Odds are, your process was not the decider. Which leads me to…

Great Process

Many, perhaps even most, clients don’t care about your process except as it affects the timeline, the budget, and how much participation you expect from their staff.

Most processes are the same, although they have different names from different firms.

If anything, clients will have concerns that you’re going to spend too much time on discovery, research and/or navel gazing. Customer-centric design is still a new concept for many companies.


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