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How To Fix A Broken Bid/No Bid Process

If you watch how companies behave in reality, there is no single point in time where they make a single bid/no bid decision. It doesn’t really matter whether this is because of their inability to be decisive and commit or whether it’s because of the way opportunity knowledge builds over time. But it is important to recognize that you are dealing with a continuum and not a milestone when it comes to a bid/no bid determination. That is why you need a system instead of a decision to guide you to being selective about what you invest in pursuing.

For starters, you can’t make a bid/no bid decision before the RFP is released. You can “no bid” with certainty, but you can’t make a final decision in favor of bidding. A surprise in the RFP, such as a contractual clause that you can’t live with, can turn an opportunity you expected to bid into a “no bid” decision. So you can’t make your final bid decision until after you see the RFP. At the same time, you really need to make a decision much earlier. You can’t wait for the RFP to start preparing. To start the pursuit before the RFP comes out, you need to commit resources and make an investment early.

This is what led people to develop “gate” systems. Gate systems are a series of decisions or “gates” that must be passed, each with its own criteria and typically with limits on the amount of investment in the pursuit, before the opportunity gets to the next gate. Unfortunately, most gate systems are focused primarily on financial issues --- is the pursuit worth investing in, how much should be budgeted for the pursuit, what is the anticipated value, etc. They may or may not include things related to whether you have gathered the right intelligence or taken the right actions to position your company to win. As a result, while they are a step in the right direction, they may not help you win as much as they could.

To fix the gate system approach, you need to define criteria that ensure the pursuit is preparing you to win at RFP release. However, it is difficult to define better criteria because:

  • You cannot collect all of the intelligence you would like to have. The availability of the type of information as well as the depth can change from opportunity to opportunity.
  • Some of the information being collected is difficult to quantify. It can be anecdotal, subjective, or narrative.
  • Some of the goals are difficult to validate. How many people inside a company are willing to admit that the customer doesn’t like them? Having a positive customer relationship is important for the pursuit, but it's difficult to validate whether this has been achieved.
Point scoring systems are another approach that tries to grapple with the nature of this kind of information. You can give point values to different criteria when they are met. You don’t know which criteria will be met or how highly they will score, but you can identify a value that the total score must reach in order for it to be worth pursuing. Point scoring can be combined with gate systems.

Another difficult issue is the scheduling of bid/no bid reviews. When do you formally declare a lead and start tracking it? How many gates do you have and when should they be scheduled? Sometimes you don’t find out about a lead until RFP release, and sometimes you know about them years in advance. How do you adapt the scheduling to the wide disparities in time available before RFP release?

The Readiness Reviews described in the MustWin Process provide a foundation for a bid/no bid system that addresses these issues. Readiness Reviews consist of four reviews, each with a specific list of questions to be answered and goals to be accomplished. Since each review is considered a bid/no bid meeting, they provide a framework similar to gate-style reviews. One key difference between readiness reviews and gate systems is that Readiness Reviews focus on making sure you are prepared to win instead of financial considerations. Readiness Reviews can easily be customized to accommodate your financial considerations.

How well the questions are answered and goals are achieved serve as decision criteria for a Readiness Review. The answers can easily be scored, much like in a point system. In fact, the scores can be used as the basis for a full blown bid metrics and measurements system that can uncover hidden correlations between factors that impact your win rate.

We even provide a list with a couple dozen bid/no bid considerations to help ensure that you consider all of the issues. When you combine Readiness Reviews with a final bid/no bid review after RFP release, you get a bid/no bid system that works much better than attempting to have a single bid/no bid decision or meeting.


We built bid/no-bid decision making into our off-the-shelf MustWin Process and made it part of PropLIBRARY.

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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