Friday, September 12, 2008

How to improve your win rate

Writing proposals can be expensive. In large corporations a dedicated team with a dedicated budget will work on putting together each discrete complex solution. In medium sized organisations there may be a dedicated bid team to work alongside account managers to produce proposals. And in the small organisation maybe the owner/manager works late each night putting together the proposals.

However proposals are produced they take time and resources...and that means money.

How often has your organisation done a precise calculation of the cost of producing one proposal? Do you have any idea? or is it just included in the overall sales/cost-of-doing-business overhead?

In the Learn to Write Proposal Survey the average time to produce a proposal is around one week. Assuming one member of staff working on the proposal for that length of time the cost is in the thousands of dollars...and for small business that's a lot of cash.

Then think about your win rate..and multiply that by the cost of each bid to produce. Chances are, it's becoming a lot of money for no reward. Let's hope that the work you win is delivering good margins.

Now analyse which proposals you won. What was the differentiating factor? Customer knowledge? Better solution? Was it just a better proposal?

So what if you could win all the work you went for? OK...that might be unrealistic, but you should at least be able to cut down the number of the proposals you lose - and that is going to benefit you in two ways - firstly it will save you the money it costs to produce the proposal but secondly it will allow to utilise you time finding better opportunities and working on winning the opportunities that you do decide to bid on.

So how do you decide which bids to go for? Better qualification. At regular points from when the opportunity has been identified to when the proposal is submitted you should qualify the opportunity.

The Learn to Write Proposals "Prospect Qualification Toolkit" is an interactive tool that helps you identify where your prospective opportunity is weak based on some typical criteria (explicit or not) that buying decisions are made on. This helps you identify early on non-starters or opportunities that were initially pursued that should be shelved.

Using this tool also helps you prioritise your opportunities 

When you've reached the point of no return (when you are always going to submit the bid) it helps you identify weak points that require work in order to maximise your chances of success.

The easiest way to improve your win rate, improve the ROI of your bid team investment and lower your costs isn't just to throw extra resources against every opportunity, but to analyze opportunities to decide which ones you can realistically  win.