At Familiar (1996-2000) we regularly “lost” work to other companies making lower bids than us. Like many suppliers we were initially both angry, frustrated and disappointed when this happened.
Over time, we studied the phenomenon, saw a pattern emerge, and came to understand these scenarios.
Years later, I wrote a blog post – The Inductive Deductive Schism – explaining the phenomenon of clients commissioning software development work with suppliers who were clearly going to screw up and cost the client much more over the full duration of the commission.
The Schism Summarised
In summary, non-technical, non-engineering clients approach decision-making – i.e. who to commission – in entirely the reverse order to how technical, engineering people might approach the same decision. The follow chart illustrates the order in which clients might approach the question:
Note how trust (actually credibility of the supplier) takes first place, followed by solution fit, and then details of the solution. “Will the proposed solution work?” comes a poor fourth.
Compare with the approach favoured by “technical” people:
Here, the viability of the proposed solution takes first place, and “trust” a.k.a. credibility of the supplier comes fourth.
So we see that technical suppliers who fail to understand the decision order of their prospective (non-technical) clients will inevitable fail to understand why the commissions go to suppliers who appear inept and likely to produce inappropriate and/or non-viable solutions.
If you’re a “technical” supplier pitching for business with non-technical clients, you might like to focus on your credibility, followed by the “fit” of your proposed solution to the client’s needs – and downplay the details and viability of your proposed solution.