Proof Points

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“How do you measure performance?” With a brief like that, our BQ Experts will inevitably talk about win rates, capture rates, proposal quality, return on investment, achievement of growth targets, and impressing the hell out of customers. These are the standard means of measuring success in bidding. Most of them, though, are measured on an aggregated basis – perhaps for a team, department or at a company level. How often do you see them measured at an individual level?

Let’s begin with a close look at ourselves.

Imagine you’re preparing for a big interview. It’s for your dream job in bidding. You have your CV polished, case study examples are prepared, and your best suit is back from the dry cleaners. You’re ready for this. Or are you?

You do some background research on the interviewing manager and discover that she has a reputation for being ruthless and only recruits the best talent. Hmm. Polished shoes and a nice smile won’t cut it. You need to know the exact value you will bring to her business and, while you’re at it, how you will be better than all the other candidates she’ll see.

Tough gig, eh? Best that you and I sit down together for a quiet coffee, to help you prepare. The conversation might go something like this…

“Okay. The job advert’s pretty clear: it’s about winning business. I can see from your CV that you have many years in bidding, have plenty of relevant qualifications, and have worked on the right sort of deals to give you the required experience. You’ve got the BidMiles loyalty card and are worth an interview.”

I’d then look you sternly between the eyes and say, “So how much are you worth, and if I paid it, how much would you win me?”

If you could answer me, I’d respond with, “And what proof points do you have?”

The brutal reality of our profession is that bidders are employed to win business. Pure and simple. We are part of a sales function and exist to bring in significantly more revenue and profit (and mitigated contract risk) than is spent on our salaries. The return on investment that our employer or client gets from us is dependent on the type of industry into which we are bidding – but whatever the number (let’s say it’s no less than ten times what we’re paid), we need to be able to measure it.

So, I say again, “What proof points do you have?”

Time for us to gather the evidence.

Do you know your personal win rate this year, over the past five years, and in your career to date? What was your capture rate? What was the total value of contracts you won versus how much you were paid? How is this trending year on year, and why? Is it increasing because you’re getting better at your job, or declining because you’re working on bids that are harder to win? How do your stats compare to your team average and against your colleagues? Are you better or worse than them, and why?

If you don’t already have one, I recommend you build a spreadsheet to track the statistics for all the bids you’ve worked on. It should include columns containing total contract value, profit, submission date, win or loss, new business or renewal, number of competitors, qualification score, proposal quality score, your role on the bid, customer feedback, the main ‘lessons learned’ outcomes, and a one-liner to yourself of the biggest thing you learnt on the bid. This will help you to record your achievements and add enough contextual narrative to explain the ‘how and why’ of your performance.

I’ve kept such a spreadsheet since 2004. It makes for interesting reading, especially when I look at my years of doing high volume ‘fast and furious’ commodity bidding (which produces lots of data) and how this compares to my more recent public sector bidding where one bid can last for years and the spreadsheet shows very little. And there are years when I spent more time training or managing others than submitting my own bids. But it all tells a story: that I am always focused on the value I bring to an organisation, hence my sense of worth and justification for what I charge.

Tracking personal performance metrics will put you in good stead for interviews and end of year performance reviews. But whilst win and capture rates get people’s attention and help you to benchmark yourself against others, a less brutal manager should be asking you about ‘how’ you achieved your performance. What did you do to influence the outcome? How did you interact with and motivate your team or customer? Did you succeed on your terms, or sacrifice too much for the bid? And what were the soft skills you brought to the deal that meant you were a good fit within a team?

Whilst there’s an easy way to measure success, always aim to ‘lift’ more than win rates. Be the catalyst within the team that energises and inspires others to achieve success. And have the proof points to evidence your value.

This article was written by Nigel Hudson.

Nigel is passionate about professional development. He designed and delivered the APMP award-winning Bid Academy for Vodafone and co-authored Europe’s leading proposal syllabus with Strategic Proposals. He’s trained more than 4,000 people worldwide

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