The importance of having a complete bidders list


By Jim Lamelza

Special to Ontario Construction News

Construction contractors get the majority of their jobs by bidding on projects. While builders often get training or mentoring in construction skills, they usually learn about bidding and how to develop a winning construction bid on the job and experience painful mistakes along the way.

While it goes without saying that starting with highly accurate cost estimates and submitting the lowest bid of all the competing contractors is the key to success, in this post, we’ll unpack how to increase your odds of winning.

How many other companies are also bidding?

Knowing how many companies you are up against is extremely important and a complete and accurate bidders list will give you that information. Let’s face it, if there is a huge bidders list with dozens of competitors the winning bid will probably result in a low-ball number.

Is it worth taking your time and resources or perhaps best to sit this one out? Knowing how many companies you’re up against helps prevent bottlenecked company growth. If you do in fact decide to pursue, at least you’ll know that you need to sharpen your pencil if you want to have any chance at winning.

Who is bidding?

Besides knowing how many companies you are up against, do you know specifically Who your competition is and how they typically bid? Knowing who you are up against and how they bid on similar projects in the past will give you the advantage that you need to make an informed decision on your bid.

Having in depth knowledge of your competitor’s bid history is important.  Is there a “Low-Baller” on the list? Knowing this could help you decide to not bid at all. Let’s face it, there is a cost of time and money for each job you bid. If you are going to pursue, at least you know going into it that you’ll have to go lower to have a better chance of winning that project.

Bidding to all the GC’s

If you are a subcontractor, a complete bidders list could help you see all the general contractors (GC)  bidding on a project.

Think about how many times you get a call from a GC asking for your numbers for a project they are bidding. What happens if after spending a couple days putting together your bid and submitting to that GC if they don’t end up winning the project? Or they decide to not even bid? How does that impact you? You did all that work for nothing, thats how!

If you knew ALL the GCs that were planning on bidding, you could send your numbers to the entire list. One of them is going to win and guess what? You just bid to the Awarded GC and greatly increased your odds of winning!

Bidding to all the GC’s gives you the advantage over a subcontractor who doesn’t have all the information. You want to make sure that all the bidding GC’s have your bid which helps to increase your chance to win the job.

If you are a supplier and sell to subcontractors, a complete bidders list is key. Sure your sales team could just cold call and see if contractors have a need for your products but what if your team knew whenever a potential lead attended a pre-bid meeting, picked up a set of plans or was announced as the low bidder?

Salespeople are great at adding wood to the fire but many of us forget to add oxygen. Reaching out to the right company at the right time provides the oxygen your teams needs to grow.

A few more tips to improve your chances:

  • Know what your strengths are and what sets you apart from other contractors.
  • Brush up on your marketing skills by knowing who the decision makers are what their biggest needs and problems are and address those needs. Keep an eye out for upcoming jobs and forward valuable leads to the GC’s you have a relationship with.
  • Opening and responding to every “Invitation to Bid” as quickly as possible is important. Let the GC know if you’re bidding. If they don’t get immediate response to their bid invitations, GC’s often message more subs which will increase your competition. Review the bid invitation closely to 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’re qualified to install the products specified.
  • If the GC conducts a pre-bid meeting, make sure that you attend. This shows a commitment to bid that the GC will appreciate and helps you form a more personal relationship with him to give you a more competitive edge.
  • Referencing a vendor’s past bids and performance notes can lead you more quickly to final pricing and a more confident decision. Make it a policy to track whether vendors submit their bids on time, whether the spread between their original bid and final price is acceptable and how easy they are to work with.

Jim Lamelza is president of


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