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Win Rates, Metrics, and the Effectiveness of Proposal Writers

Recently someone asked about whether win/loss rates work and how to measure the effectiveness of proposal writers. It’s a question we get asked a lot, so I thought I’d share my response. What a deliciously complicated topic. Win rates are nearly meaningless until you define them very specifically. Then they are mearly misleading. Consider --- are you talking about a win rate based on dollars or on the number of awards? Neither one tells the full story and the two numbers can actually be quite different. Also, do you include the opportunities that you bid as a subcontractor, or ones you decide to no-bid at the last minute, or ones the client cancels? What about recompetes or natural follow-ons? Why shold the win rate for bids at a customer/market where you are already doing business count the same as the win rate for a brand new customer/market?

Now, regarding the role of staff in producing a win/loss, you have to ask how much control they had over the bid and what was the relationship between their contribution and the evaluation factors that contributed to the win/loss. How much of the win/loss should be credited to the pre-rfp customer relationship and how much to the post-rfp proposal? Which has a bigger influece on your win rate --- the proposal or your bid/no bid process?

With that off my chest, let me see if I can contribute something that can help instead of making it all seem futile. The process we wrote lends itself to collecting metrics. Dozens of them. Both pre-RFP and post-RFP. If you collect enough of the right metrics for long enough, then you can see how they correlate to your win rate. For example, how does your average pre-RFP readiness review score correlate? Or you average score for competitive intelligence gathering? Is there a correlation between the how many days after RFP release it takes to prepare and validate your proposal plans so that writers can start writing?

The items that correlate with your win rate will be different for each company. The nature of your bids, the work that you do, your customer's expectations and evaluation procedures, your ability to execute a proposal, etc., are all different. The goal for collecting the metrics is to uncover just what impacts the win rate at your company to focus your efforts. Instead of looking for the ROI of discrete parts that cannot be separately analyzed, I recommend looking for which parts have the most correlation with win rate and therefore are the best points of leverage for improving your win rate.

If you need to focus on measuring the performance of your writers, you need to implement a review process that defines proposal quality criteria in such as way that a draft can be measured against it. Instead of having open ended reviews that simply ask whether the draft is good enough, you need to ask whether the draft fulfills the criteria. Then you can measure whether an author fulfilled the goals they set out to achieve.

If you find this to be of interest, you can find it spelled out in more detail and packaged in an off-the-shelf ready to implement format here.

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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