Tutorials and resources for proposal writing and business development

Enhancing your win rates over time

When people focus on improving their win rates, they usually implement a new “process” and put pressure on their staff to “win more.” Demanding a superior win rate tomorrow never works. There are things that you can do to improve your win rates. Trying to do them all at one time often introduces more chaos than success. What I have found to be more reliably successful is a process of deliberate continuous improvement.

Your business development processes are probably based on a few simple principles. You should clearly define a set of goals to guide the pursuit of those principles. The steps that you follow in your process will be less important than achieving the goals. Identify a baseline set of steps for achieving the goals and make sure that they are implemented well. Once people have mastered the process, raise the bar. Add detail. Pursue higher standards for the same goals. Or if you find better goals, implement a new baseline around them.

Your processes should never be complete. When it looks complete, raise the bar again. Then repeat. Every few weeks, once people have mastered the current process, take some part of your process to the next level.

Example. If your goal is to plan before you write and write to the plan, you might decide to start every proposal off by writing a proposal plan. At first, what’s in the plan may not matter. Just get people used to starting off their proposal efforts by being able to articulate a plan in writing. Once your organization is able to achieve this reliably, you might choose to define what should be in a proposal plan. Then you might identify standards that define what an acceptable plan is. An acceptable plan might require that the outline be fully cross-referenced with the RFP. Or it might require that all outline items be assigned to an author by name, with deadlines. Even at this stage, the format people use for their outlines and schedules may not matter much. Later you can implement forms/templates for people to follow. By then, instead of the forms being perceived as a burden, they may be perceived as a way to expedite getting the plan in writing.

Your people should also be continuously improving their skills. It's not a question of whether the people you hired know what they're doing. Most people learn on the job. This means that they do a lot of bad business and proposal development before they teach themselves the skills to do an adequate job. The truth is that most people never get very good learning this way.

Raising the skill levels of your staff means training. But training does not necessarily mean sending people out to classes. Training can and should take multiple forms:

  • Teleconferences
  • Brown bags
  • Web-based
  • Job Aids
  • Books/Manuals
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Instructor lead training (internal)
  • Instructor lead training (external)
  • Train-the-trainer
  • Facilitated discussion/planning sessions

All of these approaches can be part of your organizational training model. Each has different goals, costs, and benefits. But the combination provides you with options to ensure that your staff can develop their skills continuously.

For example:

  • Web-based training can be used to cost-effectively reach project staff
  • Instructor lead training may be merited for key staff
  • Facilitated discussion/planning sessions can be a cost effective way to achieve continuous improvement
  • Coaching/Mentoring is a good way to reinforce inexperienced staff
  • Job-aids (checklists, guides, forms) help to ensure training results in performance
  • A train-the-trainer program is a good way to extend the reach of an internal training program
  • Teleconferences can reach everybody

To improve your win rates, you need to begin following the practices that lead to consistent winning. You cannot implement all best practices in a single implementation, send everybody to training, and get an organization that will fulfill its potential. What you can do is raise the bar on a regular basis and develop the skills of your staff over time. Skills and processes will mature over time your win rate will go up, and your business will constantly reach for a higher potential. Growing skills continuously over time is much more effective than sending people to a class once in a while.

If you continuously improve the process, while simultaneously continuously improving the skills of the staff executing the process, your win rates will go up reliably and consistently. And the best part is that it does not require radical action. It does require the diligence to make improvements every couple of weeks. And while continuous training and process improvement sound like they may consume a lot of resources, the truth is that it will take less effort and provide a better return on investment than radical change. In fact, radical change, such as bringing in a whole new process and trying to nail it start to finish on the first try and expecting everyone to adapt to it quickly, is much less likely to succeed and will consume far more resources in the attempt. If you want a better win rate, just start improving things. Little things. Slowly and surely. And make sure that you improve the skills of your people as well as the process.

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By Carl Dickson,
Founder of and PropLIBRARY

PropLIBRARY is our professional tool for people who want to win RFPs like their business depends on it.

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