Top 10 Bidding Tips for Subcontractors

The bidding phase of a project is an important time for subcontractors. On average, subs have about 7-10 days to prepare and submit a quality bid to a General Contractor. They can also use this time to develop a relationship with the GC, which will help them win the job they’re bidding and position their company for future bid opportunities with that GC. Most projects are still competitively bid.

Below are some tips on how to leverage those bid opportunities to win more work and grow your company…

  1. Most GCs find subs to bid their projects by going to associations, builders’ exchanges and/or construction networks. Make sure you have a prominent presence in one or all of these places by promoting your company’s updated qualifications. This will increase your opportunities to bid projects.
  2. Open and respond to every “Invitation to Bid” as quickly as you can. If interested, let the GC know you’re bidding. If they don’t get immediate responses to their bid invitations, GCs often message more subs, which will increase your competition. If you’re not interested, let the GC know you’re not bidding. Being responsive, even if you decline to bid, will likely lead to another bid opportunity from that GC.
  3. Closely review the GC’s bid invitation and documents that they provide. Make sure the project is located in an area that you service, that you have enough time to prepare a quality bid, and that you are qualified to install the products specified. Sometimes the architect doesn’t specify a particular manufacturer or will allow an approved equivalent. This will enable you to bid your specialty product provided it meets the architect’s technical specifications. Also, review the other trades required for the project. There may be more opportunities than you were initially invited to bid.
  4. If the GC conducts a pre-bid meeting, make sure you attend. The meeting not only provides an opportunity to ask questions or express concerns about the project but it shows a commitment to bid that the GC will appreciate. Also, on bid day GCs favor subs that they know, so establishing a personal relationship may give you a competitive edge.
  5. If only one GC invited you to bid on a project, call the project’s owner or architect to request the complete list of “GC Bidders. Their contact information can usually be found on the plan cover sheet. If you take the time to prepare a bid, then you want to make sure that all the bidding GCs have your bid, which will increase your chance to win the job.
  6. When preparing your bid proposal, include information the GC needs to evaluate your bid – scope of work, alternates, unit prices, addendums, and product literature. It should specify the divisions or categories that you are bidding and identify any omissions or additions in your bid with an explanation. Always include the “Issue Date” of the plans and specifications that you produced your bid from in the event of any discrepancies. It’s also important to identify the expiration date of your bid in case a decision on the project award is delayed. That delay may affect the pricing you used in your bid. Lastly, include your company’s updated qualification form. That information may encourage the GC to add you to their private database, which will lead to future bid opportunities.
  7. Submit your bid no later than the day and time specified by the GC on their bid invitation. Typically, GCs submit their bid to the project’s owner or architect the day after they receive their subs’ bids. GCs need a day to review and evaluate sub bids so they can prepare their “General Contract” bid.
  8. Most GCs still accept subs’ bid proposals by fax or email (or courier). However, an increasing number of GCs are now requiring their subs to submit their bids into a private, cloud-based portal that was created for them. This technology not only centralizes bid submittals but it also eliminates the bid day frustration of failed faxes and emails, particularly emails with large file attachments.
  9. About 2-3 weeks after you submit your bid, call the GC to get an update on the project. Find out if they were awarded and, if so, when will they be awarding the subcontractors. If the GC was not awarded the project ask what GC was. That may provide you with another opportunity to win the job. While you’re on the phone don’t forget to ask about upcoming bids.
  10. Bid on projects that are targeted to your specialties, which will make your bid more competitive. To increase bid opportunities in your wheelhouse, provide GCs with your company’s experiences, qualifications, and certifications. The best way to accomplish that is by promoting your company’s profile in the industry’s most popular construction networks like The Blue Book Building & Construction Network.

Competitive bidding is not easy. Most subs have to bid 5-10 projects just to win one. Employing the tips above should help your Bid-Hit ratio.

Ed Haege

Ed Haege is the Project Communications Manager at The Blue Book Building & Construction Network. He began his career in the construction industry as a News Reporter for McGraw-Hill Dodge before joining Dutch Boy Waterproofing, Co. as their Sales/Estimator. He later returned to McGraw-Hill Dodge as a Regional News Manager.

Ed joined The Blue Book Network to manage the Research & Development Division and became the BB-Bid Product Manager. His construction bidding knowledge and experience was instrumental in the creation and development of BB-Bid, The Blue Book Network’s bid management system, as well as: SyncWare Plan Room, Vu360, Quick Quotes for Equipment, Materials, and Products. His most recent project is ONETEAM, a bid management and collaboration platform. These workflow solutions are used by General Contractors, Subcontractors, and Facility Managers.

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