In this economy, all firms are on a constant hunt for new projects to bring into the office. Not surprisingly, because of this, many A/E/C firms follow a Go/Go procedure with their RFP! In other words, they go after every RFP that comes in regardless of project/client type appropriateness, timing, or availability of staff. No one wants to be the person turning away leads and projects!
But you MUST resist the temptation to go after every RFP!
One sure way to increase the hit rate of your proposals is to have an objective, efficient, orderly, rigorous system for deciding when to propose on projects, and when to walk away. Here are a few things to ask yourselves before starting work on your next proposal:
- Is the client a “strategic client?” Strategic clients clients are important to the overall success of your firm because their work will support your growth strategy or some other business imperative. When you consider an RFP, consider the role this client and this project would play in your ability to achieve your strategic goals. Always give “strategic clients” a go.
- Is working on this proposal going to take time away from producing another quality proposal? Consider the time and money you will need to invest in preparing a proposal. You need to pick and choose the proposals you know you have the best shot at winning. It is better to concentrate your efforts on a few quality proposals than do a mediocre job on a lot of proposals (believe it or not, clients can tell when you “phone it in”). If your current hit rate is far below the national average of around 35 to 40 percent, you’re not being picky enough.
- How wired are you to win this proposal? Have you done work before with this client? Do your Principals have a good relationship with this client? Have you laid down the appropriate Business Development contacts with this client? If you answered NO to 1 or more of these questions, respectfully decline the RFP. Chances are there is another firm with a better connection /relationship to this client who is going to win the job. You have a better chance of winning a proposal if you have already established a relationship with the client 6-12 months in advance of an RFP arriving in your inbox. If you turn this into a go, you might as well throw your proposal in the trash.
- Are we uniquely qualified with similar project experience? In this economy, you might be tempted to branch out into a new project type or market, but doing so can be extremely risky. With competition being so fierce out there, there are bound to be more qualified firms pursuing the project – to most clients, experience counts a lot. Stick to what you know and try to find more opportunities within your firm’s niche.
- Do you know the client’s hot buttons? You might not be able to learn everything you need to know about a client or a project just by reading what they say in an RFP. The most valuable information typically comes through your direct relationship with your client, through your marketing intelligence, or through reading between the lines of an RFP. Your proposal should be uniquely written and targeted to talk about how you are going to solve their specific problems. If you don’t know your client’s hot buttons, you don’t know them well enough to submit a proposal.
One important aspect of marketing is knowing when and how to turn work down. Although you may be tempted to say “Yes” to every RFP, remember to check the criteria above before you start any proposal. Remember, healthy firms say “NO” when work is not in line with their own focus and vision.
To learn more about how to establish a proper go/no-go process and increase your proposal hit rate, join PSMJ this fall for our Winning Proposals and Presentations seminar, coming to 5 locations across North America. Get the tools and confidence you need to succeed in bringing in more work for the firm – register today!