Interiorscaping Bidding Wars: Two Types of Bid Scenarios

Going up against your competition to win a new account is never easy. Whenever I’ve been involved in a bidding process with other interiorscape companies, I tend to struggle with the question of how much to charge. If it’s a prestigious client that expects high-end designs, will they value my rates for top quality plants and service? Or will they only value the interiorscaper with the lowest prices? On the other hand, if it’s a client I would love to add to my portfolio. should I risk losing that opportunity if a competitor’s prices are lower?  Unless you have inside information, it’s usually a gamble. From my past experience, there are two basic reasons why a company puts their interiorscape service out to bid. Knowing which type of bid you’re looking at can be extremely beneficial in creating your own bid proposal. 

The Serial Bidder

The tallest and most opulent skyscraper in our downtown has a beautiful window front interiorscape in the lobby with orchid bowls, bromeliads and multi-layer rows of tropical displays.  In the nineties, I serviced the top floor which had only two offices – the vice president and president of the bank. The executive floors for the bank were also part of the account, but the building lobby was controlled by a property management company who had a different interiorscape vendor.  

Every time I walked into that building, I would stare at all the topicals and dreamed of having that account as well. Within a year, an opportunity presented itself when the lobby came up for bid. 

Being the smallest and newest company to participate in the bid process, I was honored. However, something occurred to me.  For the past year, the lobby interiorscape always looked beautiful. There were maybe a few plants that needed replacing, but those plants certainly wouldn’t warrant terminating the entire interiorscaping account.  

When I started asking around, I found out that it didn’t matter whether you did excellent work. The property management put the contract out to bid every year. One year, they fired the current plant service for another that only bid a few dollars less.

Sadly, this situation happens frequently. Big corporations will often pit vendors against each other in an effort to save money.  For me personally, I don’t get involved and stress myself out for a company that only cares about cutting costs. 

However, for industry newcomers trying to build a client portfolio it could be beneficial to submit bids to these types of jobs, especially if it’s in a public space where potential clients can go and look at your work.

The Frustrated Bidder

These types of clients are typically loyal and understanding, so these opportunities are rare. Over time, the client sees a decline in their interiorscape service for some reason. 

When you do a walk-through with these clients, it’s usually obvious why the client is searching for a new vendor by the state of the foliage.  

If there’s no telltale signs of disease, dead foliage then I’ll typically ask why they are putting the account out to bid. Knowing a specific reason why can help you win the contract.  

For example, if the client is unhappy with the constant service technician turnover that resulted in missed locations, infrequent service days or lack of care, I would make sure I state on my proposal the long length of time my staff has been with the company, my commitment to quality control and back up those statements with client references.

This type of client wants to be assured; they are not going to hire another interiorscape vendor with the same issues.  No matter how bad the interiorscape looks, if I’m invited to do a walk-through, I am careful not to say anything disparaging or negative. For one, it puts a bad light on our industry as a whole and two, you don’t know the full circumstance. 

I know of two local interiorscape businesses that struggled because one of the partners committed suicide.  How could that not affect your business?  

Whenever you enter a bidding war, figuring out which type of bid situation you’re in can make the difference between winning a contract or going through a lot of stress and disappointment. With serial bidders, you could be pricing yourself too low with little to no profit. With frustrated bidders, you have to convey your strong customer service abilities.

Whether you win the bid or not, being part of the process is always a good learning experience for the next one. 

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

Fiberglass Planters

Join the Community