The federal government provides us with a great opportunity to understand why we didn’t win a contract. It’s called a Formal Debrief. Not only will you receive valuable insight into what you might have missed, if you are willing to listen, you will also be provided with inside information regarding the internal processes of both the agency and the contracting office. This is a rare opportunity to have interaction with a contracting officer that you have never met – and this can be extremely valuable.
Next time you lose, you have a choice of debrief by meeting, phone or writing so if at all possible, ask for a formal debrief in person. Anyone who has ever seen the movie “Hitch” will appreciate the significance of effective communication and being face to face is by far the most valuable. 93% of all communication is non-verbal, that means tone, body language and phrasing makes up the vast majority of what we receive from people when we communicate.
Contracting officers are always braced for hot headed, argument ready poor loosers that would love to meet them in the parking lot. So, instead of going in to argue how stupid they are for choosing someone else, reframe your mindset and go in as if this is a sales call – for the next opportunity. Be respectful, open and have a significant desire to understand his or her point of view. Ask open ended questions that provide opportunities for the contracting officer to provide additional information and watch their eyes for the “read between the lines” clues that they give you.
This past week I was in DC for a formal debrief with a contracting officer and a client on the phone. During the first 30 minutes, it was all business, straight forward by the book. If I wasn’t there in person, we would have missed some of the most important hints in body language and leading. More importantly though is what happened after our client said goodbye. The next 45 minutes was spent talking and getting to know each other better and building a relationship.
It was important because I knew that we were likely going to protest the award and as a result, potentially really irritate the contracting officer. For isiFederal and our client, it was very valuable and I appreciate the opportunity every time I can get it. No matter what, we have an advantage next time because the contracting officer knows who we are and that we respect them for what they do.
Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be respected, valued and accepted? You bet it is and next time you have the opportunity, use it to your advantage to build a new relationship with someone who can definitely help you in the future.