How to Increase your Win Ratio in One Easy Step

  |  April 1, 2009

Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? And yet every day, companies large and small spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars chasing “opportunities” that don’t exist.

For example, salespeople often respond to requests for proposals even though they have had no contact with the prospective client beforehand. They get the RFP and start answering it. Why? How much chance do you think you have of winning the deal if you’ve had no contact with the decision makers?

Well, I’ll tell you. Statistically, you have less than one chance in 20! That’s right—5 percent! So is it a good use of your time to respond to that blind, unqualified RFP? You tell me.

The salesperson might say, “Yeah, but they sent it to us. They must be interested in us.”

Probably. Or maybe they just need another company to add to the “not chosen” column. Or maybe they want somebody to come in with a low-ball price they can use to beat up their current vendor.

The same thing happens in sales activities generally. People start spending a lot of time chasing deals that don’t really exist. Because the salesperson hasn’t carefully qualified the prospect, he or she doesn’t recognize that this one is just a tire kicker or a time waster.
Dr. Steve Bistritz has simplified the qualification process down to three questions:

  1. Is this a real opportunity?
  2. Can we compete effectively?
  3. Do we have a realistic chance of winning?

Steve subdivides each of those questions into more specific ones. For example, to determine if it’s a real opportunity, you should ask if the prospect has a significant business need or problem that’s driving their search and if they have funds set aside to pay for a solution.

When it comes to responding to blind RFPs, I recommend a similarly straightforward reality check. Call the client and tell them that you’re very interested in bidding for their business, but to do a good job you need to understand their needs, their business situation, their objectives, the current operations, and a few other details. Request two one-hour interviews with the senior managers you believe can give you the insights you need. If the client refuses to arrange those interviews, they aren’t serious. And you shouldn’t waste your time. (Those of you who work primarily on government contract recognize that it’s almost always impossible to contact agency personnel after an RFP has been released. But then you also realize that you have almost no chance of winning if you’re only hearing about the contract when the formal RFP is issued.)

Good luck in qualifying your opportunities. There’s plenty of business out there. You might as well go after the stuff you have a chance to win.


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