What changes in your organisation would create the greatest advantage for you?


The cost of getting the selection wrong is at least three, if not seven times salary

Coach or Train

What skills do your people need to make the greatest sustainable improvement?

Biting Off More than You Can Chew

Have you ever had to tell your children not to put so much in their mouths when they eat? Or, have you ever tried to take a small bite of something only to find that a lot more came with it than you bargained for?

Pizza can be like that. It’s usually hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth; and so in an attempt to bite off just a little, you can end up pulling all of the topping off at once. Then what do you do?

Or how about a burger? You take one bite and it, plus the lettuce, onion, tomato, gherkin and special sauce, ends up sliding out of the bun all at once.

You can do exactly the same thing in business. You can bite off more than you can chew without even realizing it until it’s all over the front of your virtual shirt.

How can you do that?


By overcommitting. By making promises that you can’t keep.

What does that look like?

The first way is by offering to do more work than you have time in which to do it. This can be done easily.

Let’s say that you’re submitting a “Response For a Proposal” (RFP). You know that there will be a number of other people competing for the work. You may even have a pretty good idea who they are. How do you differentiate your proposal from theirs? An easy way would be to add a lot of extras to it; things that your competitors probably couldn’t be bothered with. Or things that they didn’t have time to do.

If truth be told, you don’t have time to do them either; however, you may offer them just the same in the hope that they will be enough to tip the work in your favour. The problem occurs when you get the contract and then have to fulfil what you promised.


A second way is related to that. It’s that you bid too low. When you do that it undervalues your work. It cheapens your expertise. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t make you more competitive unless you’re in a race to the bottom. In fact, the only people who win this contest are those with very deep pockets.

When you bid too low, it puts more pressure on you to get either more or higher paying work elsewhere to make up the difference. Newton had a quaint way of expressing this. He said that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” To think of this another way, for every contract you underbid, you need to find another in which you overbid just to break even.


Why do you do this?

Undoubtedly, it’s because you want the work. You feel that you have to keep upping the ante in order to get your prospects to say “Yes”. You don’t want to walk away empty-handed, wishing that you had “gone the extra mile”. This can be especially disconcerting if after the RFP has been awarded you learn just how close you came without getting it.


A better way

There’s a better way. Rather than overcommit or try to underbid, it’s better to under-commit and over-deliver.

Let’s think about a non-business example.

Do you know someone who has studied a musical instrument, but isn’t very good? What tends to happen? When that person plays, the easy parts go pretty fast, and the hard parts sound like a train wreck. Why is that? It’s because the person has overcommitted. It would be much better to play something simpler and do it well. People would be more appreciative of that. Instead, they have to listen politely and perhaps painfully, and then say something afterwards that avoids the truth of what they’ve just experienced.


Now think of your own business.

Have you ever ended up working on a contract that stretched you, your time and your resources nearly to a breaking point because you overestimated what you could do and underestimated the time and expertise that would be required to do it well? 

Take some time to reflect on those instances. Think about how you could have improved your proposals so that you committed to accomplishing less while delivering more. Don’t be afraid to talk to your clients about this. They should be willing to give you these valuable insights.

And then, starting from today, make it your goal to bite off less than you can chew. It will be a pleasant surprise to all of your customers, and you won’t get indigestion in the process.


Want to know more about winning more edible and profitable bids? Contact us here.

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