The preparation of a good invitation to bid or request for proposal for subcontractors is both the most important and possibly the most difficult step in the preconstruction process. Implementing the wrong invitation to bid format can mean your subcontractors will not read or even receive your ITB, which can cause low volume of bids and low quality of bids, and maybe even losing the project to a competing general contractor. So, what is the optimal invitation to bid format that produces high subcontractor response rates?
Take a look at the current invitations to bid your’re currently sending out to your subcontractors. Is the design/layout appealing or too excessive? Does it convey the project information you would like evaluated or is it too vague and have unambiguous wording? Also, pay attention to the timing of your contract bid awards. Are you providing your subcontractors sufficient time to prepare the bids or proposals?
Your invitation to bid does not need to be a work of art. Having seen tens of thousands of invitations to bid in almost every format you could possibly imagine, I can assure you the plainest, simplest, cleanest, and most direct approach will get you the best results. Below are some tips on how to draft an organized, well-developed ITB to maximize your chances of obtaining quality subcontractor bids.
- Remove excessive art, large colored text. This type of formatting will send your ITB straight to the Spam folder.
- Try split testing on a project and have two different invitations to bid. Perhaps one invitation to bid could incorporate everything you want, or think you need. The second should contain only what is needed, that is, the most direct, or concise information regarding the project. Having made this suggestion to general contractors in the past, they were surprised to see double digit percentage increase in subcontractor responses.
- Use precise terms and unambiguous wording. If the subcontractor must provide something, use the words “must” or “shall,” not the words “should” or “may.”
- Avoid vague phrases. For example, for a landscaping contract, your bid specifications should state items such as “cut grass once weekly” or “cut grass whenever it exceeds 3 inches on average,” not “cut grass as necessary.” However, do not use overly technical language.
- Provide subs sufficient time to prepare their proposals. Review timing in the past that has resulted in top, qualified bids. For example, which day and/or time resulted in the highest ITB open rate, click rate and response rate.
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