How to Increase Your Win Rate: 5 Habits of Top-Performing RFP Teams

Kyla Steeves, Content Marketing Manager at Loopio
Kyla Steeves

There are many metrics that a proposal team should track, but one stands above the rest: the celebrated win rate. That’s because a higher win rate means your bidding process consistently earns more business for your company.

If you’re like the average proposal team, you may win around 44 out of every 100 bids. But in comparison, top-performing teams enjoy an RFP win rate of more than 50%. (Don’t know your win rate? Use this win rate calculator to find out.)

Of course, these best-in-class teams don’t achieve this level of success by accident. They nurture positive work environments, discover efficiencies in the proposal process, and strategically choose which RFPs to chase.

So, how do you increase your win rate for RFPs?

The answer: Follow the winning habits of top-performing teams.

In this article, you’ll learn what highly successful teams do differently to earn a higher win rate—based on insights from Loopio’s 2023 RFP Trends Report. We’ll reveal how they:

1. Assign a Dedicated Person to Lead Your Proposal Process

When everyone is responsible, no one is responsible.

That’s because of the diffusion of responsibility phenomenon: people are less likely to take responsibility in a group because they assume others are managing tasks and projects. It creates confusion, accountability gaps, and delays.

According to our benchmarks, 56% of top performers have a dedicated RFx expert at the helm—usually a proposal manager. They assemble a collaborative RFP response team, coordinate the production of a winning proposal, and keep everyone accountable—including SMEs. Without them steering the response process, it’s easy to swerve off course.

This simple step to clarify ownership is like a magic bullet to optimize the RFP process. As a result, nearly two-thirds of top-performing teams are more satisfied with their process efficiency, unlike 47% of low performers, who are not.

🏆 Winning Tip: Follow This Simple Process as a Dedicated Proposal Pro

  1. Evaluate: Consider whether the opportunity is the right fit for your business before investing valuable time, resources and collective energy.
  2. Research: Dig into every RFP detail to find nuggets of information that will help you understand who the prospect is and what needs are on their A-list.
  3. Plan: Map out your RFP response strategy by making a content plan based on your top advantages while kicking off the project with your team.
  4. Draft: Craft a winning response by personalizing answers, enlisting the brainpower of SMEs, and packaging everything into an eye-catching proposal.
  5. Respond: Submit your response exactly as the delivery instructions say. Then, save your answers in a content library to repurpose for the next RFP.

2. Implement an Official Go/No-Go Checklist

One of the best ways to increase your win rate is to increase your chance of winning.

That’s why 86% of top-performing teams don’t rush into every opportunity. They respond strategically, submitting bids only when the odds are in their favor. But this habit is also practiced by low-performing teams—76% use a qualification process of some kind to assess customer fit, competition, and capability.

However, there’s a stark difference between how well top-performing teams follow their RFP evaluation criteria.

Less than half of low-performing teams say they stick to their go/no-go checklist, indicating it’s either not fit for purpose or implemented incorrectly. On the other hand, 60% of top performers are happy with how much they follow their framework, suggesting it’s successfully integrated into their RFP process.

So, if your team still responds for the sake of responding, consider revisiting your evaluation criteria with relevant stakeholders. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what qualifies as an excellent opportunity this year. Then, bake it into your intake process so everyone follows it automatically. 

🏆 Winning Tip: Ask These Questions Before Saying ‘Yes’

  1. Is it a real opportunity? Take a temperature check to see if your prospect is serious about the opportunity. Remember, some organizations use RFPs for benchmarking or keeping existing suppliers on their toes.
  2. Do you want it? Think about the fit between this opportunity and your long-term business goals. Are they in alignment with your criteria?
  3. Can you win it? What are your odds of scoring this deal? Be honest with yourself. Consider your relationship with your prospect and the competition you might be up against.
  4. Can you do it? Review your internal capacity. Would it be feasible for your organization to take on this project and execute it in a way you’re proud of?

➡️ Start qualifying every RFP that comes your way with this go/no-go decision template

3. Create a Diverse Roster of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

It takes a village to write a winning proposal. Based on our research, top performers take this mantra to heart—seeking fresh takes, technical solutions, and accurate facts from a much wider pool of SMEs.

In fact, they pull in around 10 contributors for a single RFP response. While this is slightly above low performers at nine, they are still twice as likely to rope in a whopping 15 plus contributors. The strategy is clear: the more people who participate, the more access you have to company-wide intelligence.

However, top performers are not immune to the struggles of collaborating with SMEs. In fact, 48% ranked this as their number one challenge (compared to the 46% average). Yet, it doesn’t stop them from working with as many SMEs as they do, indicating a wealth of expertise is essential to win the bid.

So, the next time a subject matter expert takes too long to respond, take refuge in knowing you’re not alone. Even the best of the best have yet to tame SMEs—but their answers are always worth the wait. 

🏆 Winning Tip: Make Responding to RFPs Easier for SMEs

✓ Take the first pass: Show your SMEs that you’ve done the legwork and only enlist them to fill in the blanks or fact-check. Psst…nothing makes a SME respond faster than a wrong answer. 😅

✓ Schedule an interview: Hop on a call with SMEs who are less responsive to email. (Pro tip: Use a transcription tool like Rev to record their answers, so all you have to do is polish their phrasing.)

✓ Share your content plan: Show them what sections of the RFP they need to contribute to and provide a past response they can use as a guide for structuring their answers.

✓ Reuse their content: Save their answers in a single place (like RFP automation software) so you can leverage their work again, making it easier for both of you next time.

4. Balance Response Quantity With Proposal Quality

Like oil and water, quantity and quality tend to split off in different directions. Yet, top-performing teams actually respond to 39 more RFPs annually than teams with a win rate of 30% or lower. At the same time, 82% of them are satisfied with the quality of their responses.

So, how do top performers submit more bids at a higher quality? Does it involve demanding deadlines and working twice as fast? Quite the opposite. They spend an average of 33 hours writing each RFP response, which is 5 more hours than low-performing teams.

As a result, two-thirds of top-performing teams say their stress is almost always manageable when it comes to responding to RFPs (just 59% of low performers say the same). By allocating more time to writing, top performers better manage their stress levels, which allows them to craft better responses.

Just remember, it’s not how much time you spend writing, but how you spend the time. Top performers know that a high quality response isn’t just well-written and error-free. They also put that time toward ensuring the proposal has strong win themes and every answer is highly customized to the buyer.

🏆 Winning Tip: Follow the Rules of Exceptional Proposal Writing

✓ Answer the full question: Make your answers obvious by working the question into the first sentence, front-loading key information, and adding supporting details later.

✓ Speak to the customer: Keep the focus on the customer by replacing every “we” with “you.” This trick makes them feel acknowledged and valued.

✓ Prove it: Support your claims by highlighting past wins through testimonials or provide facts and figures on what you can do better than the competition.

✓ Go beyond the features: Zero in on the outcome, not just what you can do. Describe precisely how you’ll help them reach their goals, and why it matters to them.

✓ Proofread like you mean it: Fix any typos, smooth out awkward sentences, and ensure the proposal is easy to read. Also, double-check to see if you’ve answered every question.

5. Track a Broad Range of RFP Performance Metrics

Once regarded as a luxury or nice-to-have, successful proposal teams now treat data as an essential part of their operations. 68% track their win rate, and 52% track their overall revenue sourced from RFPs.

These metrics are important for proving the value of the work they do. By quantifying the impact of RFPs to the company, they can justify requests for extra resources more easily, which is likely why 65% of top performers say they have the resources they need to respond to RFPs efficiently and effectively.

But these metrics are just the tip of the iceberg.

Top performers drill much deeper as they keep tabs on a broad range of RFP metrics to figure out what’s working and not working to increase their win rate. Not surprisingly, the only metric that more low performers measure is speed of completion—which correlates with habit #4.

🏆 Winning Tip: Measure Proposal Performance Across 5 Categories

  1. Volume: Think the number of RFPs you receive and the percentage you respond to (a.k.a participation rate). At a glance, this metric will reveal your team’s capacity and workload.
  2. Revenue: Dollar, dinar, rand, and rupee—this metric shows how your work impacts revenue growth.  Without that proof, it’s harder to secure resources and earn buy-in.
  3. Process: Measuring how you work means you can improve it. Track metrics like time to first draft and overall writing time. Look for weaknesses to fix and strengths to double down on.
  4. Content: A higher win rate starts with a well-written proposal. If you have an RFP library, track your usage, freshness, and automation to gauge how well your content is performing.
  5. People: Use team performance metrics to suggest improvements and guide professional development. Measure metrics like overall team satisfaction and number of collaborators.

📈 Increase Your Win Rate By Making a Habit of Winning Habits

From the outside, it can be tough to work out what makes successful teams tick. Why were the New England Patriots so dominant? How did Apple win the smartphone wars? What makes one proposal team’s bids so much more attractive than others?

It’s easy to say, “Well, they’re just better.” But the truth is successful teams work at being successful. They build winning habits and make them part of their RFP culture—something they live and breathe every day.

The good news is: You can follow their lead.

Conduct a win/loss analysis to find out how to improve your proposal process. Recruit more SMEs for the next RFP project. Expand your performance tracking in a few months. Habit by habit, you can maximize your impact, delivering more high-quality bids, and increase your win rate. 

Not Sure Why You’re Winning or Losing RFPs?

Download this win/loss analysis template to figure out what’s working (and not working) to earn a higher win rate.