BMI 21st Anniversary Series - Measuring Proposal Improvement Initiatives
In BMI's role as a transformation agent in Sales Support/Enablement, we have often been asked what measures we believe are a valid way of determining the worth of improvement initiatives. And we are also asked to advise enterprises on ways of measuring Return on Investment (ROI) on Sales Support/Enablement functions.
I have an issue with the idea that the function of Sales Support/Enablement is required to justify their ROI. I think the focus should be not on ROI, but how effective and efficient they are. To do so requires valid measures of performance.
10 years ago, effectiveness was generally measured by volume and win rate. On some outlier occasions, 'proposals submitted on time' was also a measure.
Our solutions focus specifically on proposal improvement. Here are two examples of how we have approached measuring the effectiveness of proposal improvement initiatives. The first example is more atypical and that is an enterprise that had no effective measures in place. The second is one where we initiated engagement by collecting baseline data and then implemented improvement initiatives to test their efficacy.
Case Study One - Using praxis and hypothesis testing
Global telecommunications company, 300 offices in 75 countries and around 200,000 employees.
BMI was engaged to transform the bid and proposal function within the Asia Pacific region. As is often the case there were basic metrics around the performance of the function including volume of bids submitted, win rate and % of bids submitted on time. Volume was high, submission rate was 100% and win rate was low.
Our approach was to employ initiatives we knew through praxis were likely to improve the win rate which was 18%. We forecast success, but success could not be guaranteed.
We worked with the organisation to:
- Slow the volume of bids undertaken using two methods:
- Implementing strict, metrics-based qualification
- Categorising bids into levels of importance and establishing self-service for the sales function
- Implement strict KPIs to limit the lag time between sales becoming aware of an opportunity and the bids and proposal function being notified
- Train, re-train existing resources, move some out, recruit some in
- Develop and implement customised bid and proposal management methods including proposal coaching and scoring proposal content in cycles throughout the bid project
- Ensure that methods were prospect-focused; designed to produce a high-scoring proposal as opposed to keeping sales support resources cranking the governance handle with an internal, risk management focus
- Train Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Solutioning resources in how to produce high scoring proposal material; moved the responsibility of developing proposal content from bid and proposal resources back onto SMEs and Solutioning resources
- Win rate on deals deploying the new solution: 83%
- Revenue from deals deploying the new solution: $136,000,000 (AUD)
- ROI on investment of improvement initiatives: cost to revenue: 0.15% and cost multiplier x 663
Case Study Two - Establishing baseline data and measuring efficacy of initiative
Global Information Technology company, over 800 offices in 94 countries and around 300,000 employees.
In this scenario, we had the distinct advantage of being able to commence the deployment of our Bid Metrics solution by collecting baseline data. We then employed improvement initiatives with the objective of ensuring proposals were submitted with an exit score of higher than 6.3 (a number we have validated is required to be competitive in the next phase of procurement).
As a way of explanation, Bid Metrics is a series of measures that are proprietary to Bid Management International. As a foundation, we base our measure of proposal quality on what Buyers use to assess proposals. There are many other aspects that we believe are important in assessing proposal quality but we specialise in solutions that focus on the Buyers' context.
The BMI Bid Scorecard - give the buyer what they want
We develop and measure proposals based on the same tools used by Buyers. The BMI Bid Scorecard is based on standardised technical requirements evaluation scoring used by the UK and Australian Public Service, US Federal Agencies, UN System agencies such as the World Bank and World Health Organisation as well as the private sector globally.
Bid Bureau overview
We review and evaluate proposal drafts at 3 Milestones within the bid timeframe. These 3 Milestones occur at 60% (M1), 76% (M2) and 90% (M3) within the 100% of available (or Bid Elapsed) time measured from Kickoff to Submission. There is a science to when these occur - they are designed to reflect traditional activities within bid development.
Our Evaluators have extensive industry experience in procurement evaluation in Defence, FSI, Not For Profit, Healthcare, Technology and Communications and Construction.
We score responses and provide feedback for improvement which is broadcast to SMEs via our web-based platform. All Executives and Bid Team members can track the status of the proposal via the Bid Metrics dashboard.
Case Study Baseline Data
Using data from 12 bids we established that the baseline proposal performance as follows:
- First scores averaged 2.5 at 68% of Bid Elapsed Time
- Exit Scores averaged (or score on submission) was 4.8
We then implemented proposal improvement initiatives on a further nine deals.
Our first action was to educate the Subject Matter Experts on what constitutes a high scoring response in a purchasing evaluation context. We did this as part of the bid project.
The expectation was then set that responses would be reviewed by third party evaluators at points of time through the bid timeframe (Proposal Milestones).
Bid & Proposal Leadership developed the Bid Schedule around these Milestones and communicated an expectation that SMEs adopt feedback
Governance processes were reduced (and some steps eliminated entirely) and time was quarantined for SMEs to develop proposal content
Drafts of the solution were written as guides to the team for developing their responses.
On those bids where the above process was adopted, Exit Scores were submitted above 6.3 and the bid was successful. For the others, the predicted loss became a reality.
On successful bids, the proposal development cycle looked something likes this:
Why were these initiatives successful?
People need to know what success looks like. If it isn't viewed through the lens of the Buyer, then the chances of success are reduced.
Having an independent, qualified third party to apply a numerical worth (and guidance for improvement) on a response both mimics the process the proposal will be subjected to post submission and leverages the Hawthorn Effect - a type of reactivity in which individuals modify, or improve, and aspect of their behaviour in response to their awareness of being observed.
Over the past two decades we have seen the proposal increasingly treated as an afterthought, not an artefact of the bid process. We are of the view that the entire purpose of bidding is to produce a winning proposal. It is not to undertake a series of internal-facing activities and arrive at the end of the Bid Elapsed Time and throw a document together. Changes our clients employed to reduce this focus and effort overload included simplifying governance processes, requiring articulation of the solution through the proposal from the early stages of the bid and dedicating SME time to proposal development.
Much research has been conducted on the value of the iteration in producing quality written material. Multi-draft composing contained within predetermined Proposal Milestones requires SMEs to write successively improved drafts of a single response between periods of feedback from evaluators. It forces and mechanises the act of revision: a skill long associated with good writing.
Knowing where they are against a target with enough time to change the current reality moves the team from passive participant to active controller of the outcome. It provides the organisation with lead time indicators and actionable insights to steer the proposal into winning territory.
Measuring Proposal Improvement
Download a copy of our Measuring Effectiveness of Proposal ImprovementDownload