Many companies have business development gate systems to help ensure that they are pursuing quality leads. Each bid they pursue has to pass through a certain number of “gates” or reviews to determine whether the bid is worth the investment. Some companies have lots of gates (around a dozen) and some companies just have a few. This begs the question, “how many gates should your bid process have?”
Gate systems are often considered when a company realizes that it needs to formalize its bid/no bid decision making. First you realize that you need to make a formal bid/no bid decision. Then you realize that there is no one point in time that’s best to do it. You can’t really decide to bid until you see the RFP. You shouldn’t invest in pre-RFP pursuit without due consideration. So right there are your first two gates. But is it one at lead identification and one after RFP release? Or do you need another one in between? Or more than one?
You need to decide things like:
- How much to budget for pursuit. But should you make it available all at once, or a little at a time?
- Whether you think you can win. But you learn this over time.
- Whether you have gathered all the right intelligence that you can in order to support the bid.
- Whether to go it alone or team with other companies.
- What to offer.
- What your win strategies should be.
- How much to budget for the proposal and what resources to use in preparing it.
How many gates does that add up to?
The answer doesn’t matter, because it's not the number of gates that matters — it's what you achieve at each one.
If you make a list of what you need to achieve prior to starting the bid, then you can decide how many gates or reviews to allocate them to. And that’s the hard part — knowing what you need to achieve prior to starting the bid.
In the off-the-shelf process documentation we offer, we recommend four reviews. Why four? Because it makes the math easy. If you start a year ahead of RFP release, you get three months to prepare for each. If you start a month ahead of RFP release, you get a week to prepare for each. Because each still has the same questions to answer, goals, and action items, it's easy to see how you get better results the earlier you start.
What matters more than the number of reviews is what you have on your list of questions, goals, and action items to be achieved at each review. In general, we characterize the four reviews we recommend as: Lead Identification, Lead Qualification, Intelligence Gathering, and Proposal Preparation. Within each review, we separate the questions, goals, and action items into categories like customer, offering, competitive environment, and self-awareness. The questions build on each other to break things down into more and more detail, and ensure readiness at RFP release.
When structured properly, you not only get a way to measure whether you are ready for RFP release, but you also get a matrix of metrics that you can use to identify what impacts your win rates the most. In our process documentation we show you how to turn the questions into a system of metrics and measurements that you can use not only to measure your progress towards readiness, but also to assess what impacts your win rates.