Do you know the single most important indicator of proposal success?

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google imageConsider this observation from Bill Strong, a Seattle-based independent marketing consultant, in an article about measuring marketing success/return in the SMPS Marketer:

“ROI can be very quantitative and qualitative — it can be concrete or abstract,” but the results of his past tracking show a strong correlation between the length of client relationship and proposal success. Strong said his tracking indicates that firms generally win around 90 per cent of?proposals if the client relationship was developed six months or more before the submission, 70 per cent for relationships developed three to six months prior, and around five per cent if the firm has no prior relationship with the client. Strong’s tracking of proposal wins versus length of client relationships helps inform go/no-go decisions. It is hard to argue with the numbers, Strong notes, “when you see it in black and white.”

Let’s sink into these numbers a bit. If you are chasing bids, or rushing out RFP submissions simply because they are there and you are technically qualified (or a leads service provides you the information) you have, according to Strong, a one in 20 chance of success. If you spend a half-year getting to know your potential clients before you submit a proposal, you are almost certain to win it — unless you completely blow things.

This leads to another observation in the same SMPS Marketer in an article by Linda M. Koch and Donna J. Corlew. Should you consider “proposals as introductions?” they write.

Just say no. Really.

Invest those dollars in preparation for the next opportunity.

So, this leads to a few more questions: How much time and energy are you spending on RFP submissions, bid documentation and the like? Have you measured your costs in labour, resources and (more importantly, denied opportunities? Then, can you figure out a better and more effective way to enhance your proposal success?

The first and most important answer is obvious: Don’t respond to RFPs unless you really know the organization/individuals to whom you are submitting. Tomorrow I’ll share a few ideas on how you can make this happen (and improve your results when you do.)

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