The B2B sales game is high-stakes, black-and-white when it comes to the short-term (won/loss), and complex when it comes to the long-term impacts of customers’ perceptions (credibility, trustworthiness, and viability).
However, if all you want is the single sales metric of Win Rates (Wins/Bids) to skyrocket because maybe a year-end bonus is dependent on it or some other equally important consequence, well then, that’s easy.
But before I describe how to do that, please, I beg you not to be angry when I reveal the one simple, stupid, secret to raise B2B win rates. OK, so here it is:
To raise B2B sales win rates, only play if you're going to win. Click To Tweet
There, I’ve said it. That one, simple, stupid truth is probably not much of a secret. In fact, you likely had it filed away in your subconscious along with all the other sales trainings, 12-step win programs, and pursuit playbooks you’ve picked up over the years.
After this “D’oh!” moment, let’s look at how to succeed with this single sales metric of Win Rates (and later, it’s potential for self-harm).
Raising Win Rates is a Journey
B2B selling in general, and specifically raising Win Rates, is a journey, a process to and through key milestones, for both the buying customer and the selling supplier, such as those in the following graphic.
To raise only Win Rates, sales reps must get very good at specific tasks at these key milestones. And while they’re simple to identify, they can be hard to do consistently; deviate from them at your peril.
1) Target Opportunities Explicitly in Sales Plan
It’s too easy to run after sparkly sales opportunities you have little to no chance of winning – just because you can. Or worse, arrogantly believe sales planning is now passé and a waste of time.
This is where “Only play if you’re going to win” starts. Discipline at the beginning is everything, and that “everything” must be planned – it’s hyper-focus time.
The trick is to create a quick and easy-to-use plan that doesn’t gather dust.
Here’s a free, actionable 3-page Sales Plan.
There’s also a free “How to Write a Sales Plan” ebook to help you fill it out.
Together they’ll keep you focused on selling the business you’re best able to win.
2) Gather Sales Intel & Pre-qualify Opportunity Multiple Times
It’d be great if immediately after completing your sales plan, you could immediately know if a particular prospect was worth bidding on when the time came – or not.
But it doesn’t work that way. The bid worthiness of any single opportunity is acquired over time, often in small bites.
For example, it can take months to find out the following:
- What is this customer’s reputation for buying lowest price?
- What is this customer’s reputation for slow payment?
- Does this customer pre-qualify bidders for its RFP, or is it a free-for-all?
- Does this customer use Online Reverse Auctions?
As a result, sales reps will have to update their Bid/No-Bid knowledge multiple times before getting enough sales intel to make a decision for a particular opportunity – this is the time to relentlessly dig.
To do this means a one-time setup that first determines the criteria to use when making Bid/No-Bid decisions, weight those criteria in order of importance, and then set thresholds for the decisions you’ll make. Phew! All that work upfront.
Then on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis, you can rate each criterion to make your Bid/No-Bid decisions.
Note, it’ll be necessary to keep criterion and weightings consistent across all opportunity decisions.
Lucky for you, here’s a free, fast and easy Bid/No-Bid Decision Matrix to help you decide whether to participate in an RFP or sales opportunity.
It’s an Excel template so you can change it as you like. Make it work for you.
3) Bid/No-Bid using Decision Matrix
For some opportunities, sales reps just won’t know whether they’re going to Bid/No-Bid until the RFP is released. For example, sales reps may want to know the following before making a decision:
- How long between the release of the RFP until it’s due back to this customer?
- What sales/operational insights do you have of this customer pre-RFP?
- What are the legal, safety, and/or liability risks from this RFP opportunity?
- How well does this RFP opportunity match your capabilities, and align with your growth plans?
- What exactly is the dollar size of this RFP opportunity?
This sales intel just isn’t laying around in public. It sometimes means waiting until the RFP is released, reviewing it, and then making the Bid/No-Bid decision (using your Bid/No-Bid Decision Matrix).
This is the time to be hyper-stringent, don’t waiver, don’t equivocate.
If the opportunity doesn’t measure up to go forward in your Bid/No-Bid Decision Matrix, then don’t.
No matter how luscious the fantasies of big commissions are spinning around in your head.
Nothing but the Best-Practices
4) Technical Proposal Writing
Once you’ve been hyper-focused, have dug relentlessly, been hyper-stringent, and now have determined an opportunity is worth going for – go for it. Don’t wait!
Engage the best resources you can immediately: Oh yes, this can mean consultants like myself but also you’re in-house proposal resources and subject matter experts.
Get your team on board and your upcoming opportunity in their schedules. Do it immediately with a launch meeting, once your go-forward bid decision has been made.
Don’t wait until the RFP is out before getting started. There’s tons of proposal work that can be done before the RFP’s release because:
- RFPs don’t tell you what you need to know to win: See trap # 2 in “The Top 5 Sales Traps to Avoid“
- Why burn out your support staff with crazy-lazy, last-minute demands: “Proposal Heroes Not Needed“
- Your best source of customer insights into your proposals are your customers – don’t wait until it’s too late to ask them: Do Customers Think Your Sales Proposals Are Good?
Lastly: Beware that Pursuing Only Win Rates Can Win a Battle & Lose Everything Else
So, here’s the downside of pursuing only Win Rates: you may end up with fewer sales dollars – even though your percentage of wins skyrockets a gazillion percent or more.
This can happen if you end up reducing the total number of opportunities you bid on and:
- Don’t win a high enough percentage, or
- Wins don’t have enough total dollars in them
But of course, if you’re hyper-focused on your high-probability wins, and employ your best-practice resources you’re on your way: Higher win rates AND increased sales volume. What’s not to like?
“One Simple, Stupid, Secret to Raising Win Rates” first published on LinkedIn.