Lohfeld Consulting’s article, “6 quick fixes that will improve your company’s win-rate” is an excellent and succinct statement of some of the critical success factors in improving a firm’s win rate. Although written with a focus on defence contracting, Bob’s tips apply across the full spectrum of bid activity. Here are a few observations on the points that Bob raises:
1 Capture and proposal training – training, ideally case-study based, is clearly essential for those involved in pitching for business. A danger in many organisations, however, is that people don’t have time on the job to think about how to apply what they’ve been taught simply because they are so busy. They thus revert to old habits. Building feedback and review sessions in to the programme a reasonable period after the initial training (say, a couple of months later) at which participants can share success stories and discuss any challenges they’ve had in implementing what they’ve been taught can, in my experience, make a significant difference in ensuring that the desired behaviours become embedded in the organisation’s DNA.
2 Business acquisition processes – consistency of approach is vital, particularly for multi-country bids or collaborative bids involving different units in the same organisation. Nothing undermines a prospect’s confidence in a tendering firm’s ability to deliver on the job than inconsistent actions, statements and positioning during the business acquisition process. An essential part of the process is the post-pitch review at which the pitch team identify lessons learnt, both good and bad, and the capture and sharing of those lessons across the organisation in a spirit of continuous improvement.
3 Capture management – it’s important that firms track every business opportunity so they can monitor both the true cost and the true success rate of their bid activities. This can be a particular challenge in some professional services firms where fee-earners have a surprisingly high degree of latitude as to whether to include an opportunity in the firm’s sales tracking system or, indeed, whether to involve its BD/pitch professionals in the process at all. In such situations it’s amazing how often new business wins appear, as if by magic, once won, in practice group metrics and, by the same token, how the no-wins never see the light of day! There will, of course, always be questions of what constitutes an opportunity. Semantics aside, however, time-recording systems that require each opportunity to have a unique job code can help achieve full sales pipeline transparency and better-informed management decisions.
4 Management decisions – the initial Go-No Go decision is inevitably based on an incomplete understanding of the prospect’s needs. This is particularly so in private sector bids, where the information provided in the Invitation To Tender is very often less complete than that provided by the public sector. Gate reviews therefore need to be undertaken on an iterative basis throughout the pitching process as the team’s knowledge and understanding of the prospect’s true needs and the firm’s position, relative to its competitors, becomes clearer.
5 Annotated outlines – Bob hits on a major source of process inefficiency and, let’s face it, potential source of friction in proposal teams. Sign-off of an annotated outline, setting out the key messages to be covered in each section of the pitch document, before anyone puts pen to paper is essential in ensuring that the team is speaking with one voice and that those writing the bid know what their section should (and should not!) cover.
6 Proposal quality – Early in my career I was involved in a £ multi-million bid in which a “0” was omitted from the proposed fee. No-one on the team noticed until the proposal was en route to the client. Thankfully we had time for the courier to turn around, to reprint the offending page and get the document in by the deadline. We won the bid, but it was a close call! The lesson: ensure that someone outside the bid team checks the document for you – if you’re too close to the process it’s easy to miss errors.
The most likely cause of errors though, in my experience, arises in “cut and paste” pitch exercises, where efforts to save time by reusing text from Proposal A in Proposal B have not been accompanied by scrupulous attention to detail and tailoring to the latter opportunity. Likewise with boilerplate approaches to proposal generation, a sure-fire route to reducing one’s win rate if ever there was one!
What tips would you add?