First past the winning post. ‘Win rate’: a bogus metric?

July 13, 2020

When I’m talking to potential clients they sometimes ask me what our win rate is. It’s actually pretty good, but I’m generally reluctant to discuss it. Why?

When I joined Salentis, and moved beyond being a writer of technical sections, one of the first lessons I learned from @Aaron Birkbeck, who founded Salentis some 14 years ago, was that the win-rate claims that are made by some bid and proposal professionals, whether a dollar / pound value or a percentage, are generally bogus. His view, which a couple of years down the road I’ve seen no evidence to challenge, is that a win is dependent on much more than just the quality of the proposal. Unless we can claim to be able to control other factors such as the price, the product’s ability to meet the buyer’s requirement, the quality of the product, the relationship with the buyer, the extent to which our clients’ employees embrace our methods; and all of that relative to the same factors presented by the competition, then there are just too many ‘externalities’ for the quality of our proposal to be a defining factor.

I think win rate does have validity for vendors with their own in-house bid teams; but that’s not us.

So, what do I reply when I’m asked the win rate question?

Well, my first response is to explain the argument above. The result is as dependent on the people that buy our services, and their competitors, as it is on us; we are no magic wand. But all of these factors being equal: assuming supportive employees and client subject matter experts, a good product, priced competitively, meeting the (frequently onerous) Ts&Cs on intellectual property, liability (etc, etc…), then I can say with some certainty that our bid will score higher than the opposition. Our technical sections are routinely scored the best of the bunch, and that is a result I have seen for myself time and time again.

What makes The Salentis Way® (TSW) so good?

Well, it’s not so much the fact that great people work with Salentis. They do, but our clients’ competitors often have great people too. It’s the fact that the Salentis System is based on taking the time up-front to get the approach right in terms of compliance, win themes, discriminators and the like—and doing our best to make sure that everyone, from the capture team to client subject matter experts to our writers and illustrators are bought into the process; and they are free to ask awkward questions as ‘critical friends’. Where possible, we avoid commencing writing until we know what must be said in any one section, and what must be said in all the other sections, thus achieving coherence from the outset. When implemented effectively and embraced by the clients’ employees / subject matter experts, the process is agile in matching the governance needs of our clients and the specific needs of the procurement in question.

We are also exceptionally good at using design as a discriminator between our proposals and those of the competition. This is not just making the document look pretty. It means presenting the information an evaluator needs to award full marks in as compelling a fashion as possible. This is often using graphics and clear layout. Our graphics prove the point and are aimed at scoring the points before the evaluator even reads the text; they are not there to illustrate otherwise turgid prose.

The wrap-up

I could go on. Suffice to say that for the occasional really (really) important bid, our work will stand above the rest. We love nothing more than taking an underdog and making them a winner, but only if our clients play their part. Message me if you’d like to know more. Post a response if you have a view you’d like to share!

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