What really matters in AEC business development — is it the “win rate”?

the Chicago skyline
How do you put "value" on building the base for longer-range marketing strategies. in our case, while the decision to build a business in Chicago seemingly evolved quite quickly, it had roots in initiatives almost a decade ago.

Lowell_Observatory_-_Clark_telescopeKathy Nanowski (Fuss & O’Neill)?has written a helpful article in the latest issue of the SMPS Marketer: Win Rate Shouldn’t Be Your Key Metric.

She points out that the “win” in an RFP situation generally occurs only after a process that can span a year or more from initial discovery of the possible project/need to the point where the client issues the RFP. She reminds us of the important point that if you only discover the project’s existence when the public RFP is issued, you have limited chances of success because others have built the necessary relationships well ahead of you (and may in fact have had a part in setting the RFP scope.)

Nanowski suggests you prioritize by sales stage, and differentiate by focusing on the client. ?There are four stages, she write:

The UFO — Unidentified Financial Opportunity

These are potential projects that may exist. You haven’t talked to the client specifically about them, but you either heard about something on the job site or read about them as potential projects someday.

The Lead

A lead is when you realize your UFO will happen, but lack detailed information related to technical specificity, the time to work on it, or understanding of the client’s goals.


This is where the bulk of your time is spent doing your homework. This includes many client meetings, pulling together the right team of consultants, and validating that your approach lines up with the needs and wants of your client.

The RFP – Proposal

This is the end-stage, but you only get there by achieving success along the earlier parts of the sales funnel — you can’t just drop in at this point and hope ?to win.

Successful sales organizations spend the majority of their time identifying UFOs and leads, and selectively qualifying those leads. Selectivity reduces the number of projects?you chase, providing the time and resources need to pursue fewer projects with a much higher hit rate. assessing how many new leads and projects are in the qualification stage can provide a strong?indicator of how well various departments are adopting to this relationship-based sales process.

Yes, it is a long and challenging journey from initially sensing an opportunity to receiving the RFP “win” — but there’s no escaping you’ve got to put in the time and maintain the relationships to win the work. The alternative, watching for public RFPs and pounding out boilerplate responses, will get you nowhere but frustration. You may find you have a fast-acting effort, but a dismal “hit rate” — and the only way to overcome that issue, as Nanowski writes, is to spend more of your energy working and measuring your earlier sales pipeline process.

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