The cursed proposal, and the hopefully-to-follow, nerve-inducing interview, are both part of what the A/E/C industry endures to win work. The process costs teams thousands of dollars in staff resources, printing costs, even on small projects. It is a serious decision and investment to submit.

When working with owners during the procurement process, we advise them to respect the efforts put forth by the submitting firms, particularly those who weren’t awarded the work. We communicate that they prepare detailed feedback to those who inquire. Typically, not all firms will place the call. In our experience, general contractors are more comfortable (1 in 3) than architects (1 in 5) reaching out to us or the Owner.

We provide the following list of dos and don’ts for our clients to consider:


1. Collect relevant documents including notes from the process and the actual proposals during or immediately after the interview.
2. Record comments from the selection committee immediately after the interviews occur. Your opinion is nice, but, remarks like “I had you as number one,” are of little value when trying to improve.
3. Respect that this is a difficult call to make.
4. Express a sincere thank you to those submitting.
5. Be honest—provide specific information on how they can improve. If the person on the other end of the phone becomes hostile, simply and professionally, end the call.

Do Not

1. Feel threatened. The caller is looking on how to win future work, not burn bridges or overturn the committee’s decision.
2. Retrieve a voicemail and respond with a two-line text.
3. Ask, “Did you submit?”
4. Say, “I recycled your proposal, so I don’t have any feedback.”
5. Issue the scorecard by email as sufficient feedback. Getting a “7.5 on team capabilities” doesn’t translate to improving one’s performance.
6. Ignore the inquiry in hopes that they will go away.
7. State that you gave it to the incumbent with no explanation. We all know the incumbent has an advantage but the feedback should be about what the inquiring firm did well or could do better.

Just like the general contractors, architects and owner’s reps of the world, Owners develop reputations based on their professionalism and appreciation for the services we offer. Owner’s actions can influence the A/E/C community’s desire or aversion to submitting on their next proposal.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative