2023 RFP Trends & Benchmarks
Chapter 8: What Top Teams Do Differently to Win More RFPs
Understand the performance habits of top performing teams, learning how they win more bids (and how you can, too).
How do you define a “top performer” in the world of RFPs? There are many success metrics to examine when holistically determining the health of an RFP program.
Commonly tracked metrics include:
- Shortlist rate: for tracking success in getting to the next round
- Win rate: for tracking the success of company efforts to win more business
- Revenue influence: for tracking the return on investment for bids
So while there are many impactful performance metrics you can examine, for the purposes of this report, we’ve focused on win rate alone when defining what makes a top-performing team. In the paragraphs below, you’ll learn what these winning teams do differently to secure victory.
In this chapter, we define a “top performer” as someone who wins more than half the RFPs they participate in.
10 Habits of Top Performing Teams
1. Put A Dedicated Proposal Person in Charge
Fifty-six percent of top performing companies have a dedicated person or team owning the proposal process. These teams also have considerably higher win rates, winning an average of 54% of the proposals they participate in. Their job title could be anything from “Proposal Manager,” to “RFx Lead,” or even “Sales Response Manager”. Whatever you call it, putting a specialized expert in charge leads to better, more consistent results.
2. Create a Balanced Roster of Experts
Top teams have an average of 10 contributors (slightly above the average of 9 for everyone else). While it’s likely that bigger companies are pulling up this average, it also illustrates an important truth: more brains mean more access to company-wide intelligence. Like the making of a great recipe, you’ll want to include a variety of ingredients. In the case of proposals, those key ingredients include insights from teams like Marketing, Sales, Engineering, Security, and more. The trick is harnessing those people’s wisdom productively (which is easier to do when there’s a dedicated project manager in play).
3. Adopt A Go/No-Go Process
Having a process allows you to focus your efforts on the RFPs you’re most likely to win. Eighty percent of companies now use a go/no-go process, including 85% of top-performing teams. But it’s not just enough to create a process—you also have to ensure it’s executed correctly. Fifty-eight percent of top-performing teams are satisfied with how well their go/no-go process is followed, as compared to just 45% of average teams. That means you need to build systems—such as a clearly defined intake process for all new RFPs—to ensure your go/no-go process is followed automatically.
4. Balance Volume with Quality
While top performers have been shown to submit more RFPs as a whole, they’re also less stressed, with 67% reporting that their stress levels at work are almost always manageable. They’re experts at working smarter, not harder. They know that increasing volume isn’t a fail-safe solution for winning more—you also need to be able to maintain a high level of quality.
5. Use Software to Increase Capacity
As mentioned above, top teams tend to submit more bids. But how can you do that if your team is stretched for capacity? Well, teams with software are able to respond to more proposals—34 more, per year on average. But perhaps more importantly, they’re also less likely to feel unmanageable stress, likely because they’re also spending 8 hours less per bid on average.
6. Beware Competitor Messaging
“Losing to a competitor / incumbent” became the 2nd highest reason for losing an RFP this year. Top performers were slightly more likely to list this as a reason for loss than their peers, indicating that they may be more aware of who their competitors are for each RFP (and who the bid is written in favor of). To stay ahead of competitor in the new year, consider refreshing or launching a competitive insights program, and updating your stored RFP answers to actively compete against competitor messaging.
7. Make Effort To Save Your SMEs’ Time
Collaborating with SMEs continues to rank as the top challenge for all teams. While top performers do slightly better than the average team in this area (48% cite as a challenge vs. 51%) it’s still their #1 problem in the RFP process. This may mean that if you can conquer this barrier in 2023, you’ll be able to achieve something that almost half of top teams have not, which could be your key to a competitive edge.
8. Be Selective When You Can
A higher or lower participation rate isn’t inherently good or bad—what matters is your team capacity, and how it impacts advancement and win rates. Teams with manageable stress are more selective, they respond to only about 59% of the RFPs they receive—slightly less than the average team. It’s possible that being selective with their bids is what’s giving them the winning edge.
9. Track A Broad Range Of Revenue And Process Metrics
Ninety-four percent of top performers are tracking success metrics. Tracking a combination of revenue and process metrics provides the most balanced view of changes you should make to win more in your proposal process. Revenue metrics could be the overall dollar value sourced from RFPs, while process metrics may focus on timelines. Understanding where your team lies with both is critical for success, so you can set up the systems your team needs to succeed.
10. Invest In Your Team, It Pays Off (Literally)
APMP Members report significantly higher win rates and average RFP revenue sourced than the average team. So do teams that report using RFP software. Top performers were more likely to belong to one or both of these groups. This shows, whether you’re putting your effort into tools or courses, investing in your team pays off (quite literally).
Summary: Win More With Less Effort
RFP team performance isn’t just about winning more—it’s also about improving advancement and revenue. Still, there are plenty of habits you can adopt to improve your win rates.
Those top habits include building a roster of internal experts, being selective about the RFPs you do choose to pursue, investing in process improvements so you can write better quality RFPs with less effort, and tracking metrics and insights to help you improve in 2023.
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