In this article we will focus on selecting the types of clients and the types of projects where you have the best chances of winning. Keep in mind all RFP’s, clients and projects are not good for you.

Knowing what RFP’s you can win before you bid is critical to your success ratio. Keep in ...In this article we will focus on selecting the types of clients and the types of projects where you have the best chances of winning. Keep in mind all RFP’s, clients and projects are not good for you.

Knowing what RFP’s you can win before you bid is critical to your success ratio. Keep in mind winning a bad contract is not good for you or your company. Certain clients are amenable to your way of doing business and these will be the easiest for you to capture and do well with. Sounds obvious, but you must be conscious of the characteristics of those clients so that you can gage new clients /RFP’s against this criteria. There are also certain types of projects where you excel and the characteristics of these also need to be very clear. These characteristics are your ideal client and your ideal opportunity.

These characteristics are based on past performances. Not desires. In other words, who are the customers that you’ve had good experiences with and what is it about them that made the experience good. For example, they were value shoppers, rather than price shoppers. They respected your input, rather than knew it all. They were easy to work with. You had access to their key decision-makers, etc.

Conversely, there were customers who were a nightmare to work with. What made them difficult to work with? Your task is to identify these characteristics so you can avoid new ones with those same traits and select those with the opposite traits. The same applies for projects. What were the characteristics of RFP’s you lost and what where the circumstances of projects you won, but ended badly?

The easiest way to do this is to pick three or four projects that went well and list what made them go well. Then in another area list the characteristics of the bad ones as well as projects/ RFP’s you went after and lost. What were the characteristic or circumstances of those? After you have a list of the bad characteristics, turn them into positive characteristics by taking the opposites. Combine the positives traits of the good clients/projects and the opposites of the bad traits of the bad jobs or proposals. Note how many times certain characteristics reappear for clients and for projects. I’m sure you’ll see trends.

Take 4-5 characteristics that appear most frequently for the client and 4-5 for the projects. These are now your starter ideal criteria, and you’ll refine them over time. Try to make them operational. For example you may have a trait of Win-Win. Well that’s ambiguous. What does Win-Win entail? Define Win-Win so that you can explain the trait to someone else and they will know your expectation of Win-Win. Get as specific as you can with all your traits. As mentioned, you should be able to explain it so someone else understands what you mean by that trait and can apply it by him/her self.

After every project you win, analyze what was going on that enabled you to win - project and client. Do the same for everyone you lose. By analyzing these characteristics you’ll be able to refine your starter criteria. It will take 6 months to a year until you have really solid ideal profiles. However, keep doing it (1) as a reinforcement that it works, and (2) to pick up changes about the evolution of your company, clients and project expertise.

Once you have your characteristics for clients, and opportunities, you’ll score upcoming projects against these criteria on a scale - say minus 5 being a terrible match and positive 5 being and excellent match. Add the scores for the client (y-axis) and the scores for the opportunity (x-axis) and plot the point on a chart. The position of the point will be a good indicator of your success for this opportunity.

I've done extensive work with clients determining these characteristics. We’ve analyzed a years worth of projects won and plotted them as well as projects loss and plotted them. The results are always astounding. Projects in the top left-hand quadrant close over 80% of the time and the rest close less than 30% of the time. Then we’ve compared what’s in their pipeline and it’s very revealing. It's critical to gage upcoming projects against your ideal client and ideal project characteristics before you decide to invest and pursue an RFP.

However, you have to do the pre-work to gather the information so that you can make the comparisons and analysis. The good news for this is you don’t have to interview every decision make to get a good idea of you matches. I recommend at least two and preferably 3 decision makers. You’ll need some questions to ask at some point in your interview to see how they match. For example you could say, “In the past how often have you selected based on lowest price?” or “Is price the overriding criteria when selecting your contractor?” This will get you an indication of a price vs. value trait.

Go / No-Go checklists are not new, and there are other ways of building qualifying criteria. The important point, however, is to base criteria on past performance of projects and clients rather than desires. That is; if you want to sell to the Fortune 50 but you’ve never done it before, your chances of success will be small. This is not the type of client you want to go after unless you are a real gambler or unless you have a motive other than winning. Your best chance of successful, profitable projects is to go after clients where you've had good working relationships and project types where you had profitable outcomes. If your Fortune 50 fits that description, then pursue it. Understand what characteristics make you and your company successful and then gauge future projects against them.

Highlighting Strengths and Weaknesses

Another powerful use of the ideal profile characteristics is they indicate your strengths and weaknesses for this pursuit. Close matches to a trait indicate a strength that can be used for leverage and to improve your position. Poor matches indicate red flags that you’ll need to addressed and correct throughout the proposal and presentation processes.

This qualifying process is a critical first step before doing any proposal or presentation work - the closer the match the better chance of success. Without these criteria, you are shooting in the dark, hoping that something you say or do will impress the buying audience. This is risky and expensive.

By integrating this qualifying concept and the status of pre proposal buyer knowledge into your pipeline analysis, you can increase your success ratios tremendously. Review what projects are coming up. Have you interviewed the key decision-makers or any decision-makers? If not, now is the time. Determine the fit of the project and the client to your ideal characteristics. If they match, it’s a strength and you should start covering more bases. If the match is poor, you’d better build a good game plan if you intend on winning. Getting to the decision makers ahead of the formal RFP and using their information to qualifying and build your proposal and presentation will increase your chances of success for winning to greater than 70%.

Next article I’ll show you how to build the proposal document to instill trust and confidence that your company is seen as the best choice by all the voters and their bosses.

And now I invite you to learn more.

Bonus Tip: FREE Video Series “40 Winning Strategies for Proposals and Presentations”. Just click this C-Level Relationship Selling Link Sam Manfer makes it easy for any sales person to become a 70% closer and feel comfortable selling to C-Level leaders.

Author's Bio: 

Sam Manfer makes it easy for any sales person to feel comfortable connecting with top, C-Level leaders. For more inspiring articles and to receive your free Selling Wisdoms E-zine with powerful selling tips visit his Advanced Sales Training Website