3 Metrics You Should Track in Your RFP Process to Effect Change

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Tracking and reporting on meaningful metrics in your organization gains traction, can change the conversation and influences important decisions, regardless of your company or department’s size, your role, industry, or whether you are on the commercial or government side of the business.

I have repeatedly found that I can share anecdotes to illustrate a point, particularly with senior leaders, until I am blue in the face. But when pertinent data is collated and presented, the same principles present in story form become much more tangible, meaningful and actionable. Change happens.

These three metrics have made the biggest difference in achieving results and can be collected and socialized on a micro (individual) or macro (team, department, organization) level:

  1. Subject-matter expert (SME) timeliness: the percentage of time SMEs meet their deadlines over a defined period (e.g., quarterly, annually)
  2. Opportunity progression rate: an overall percentage reflecting whether the company advanced to the next stage in the selling cycle at every step in the buyer journey (e.g., from RFI to RFP, RFP to best and final)
  3. Proposal volume and trends: annual proposal volume, proposal count increases or decreases, proposal complexity composition and shifts (e.g., client segment, bid size, hours invested)

 SME Timeliness

Why should we track this?

  • Secures on-time responses from SMEs
  • Builds trusting, reliable relationships cross-functionally; boosts morale, respect and accountability
  • Improves quality and accuracy of proposal responses
  • Allows sufficient time for proposal revisions, refinement and reviews
  • Reduces stress of all stakeholders and rushed deliverables
  • Increases successes (progression and/or win rate)

How do we track it?

Over a set period of time (e.g., quarterly, annually), record the following data points to track actual timeliness:

  • The department’s deadline — as agreed, in alignment with established process and communicated in writing at project outset
  • The date the responses were actually delivered
  • The individual assigned by function and by name. This allows for tracking and sorting to identify any recurring issues for productive discussion with their manager.
  • Key comments — positive and constructive — for context. As a proposal leader, I frequently shared feedback with people’s managers.

While these metrics enable you to derive on-time percentages by department, you can modify these data points to suit your specific needs. I recommend tracking this in a shared repository (my team used SharePoint with access granted only to the proposal team.)

Helpful tips

Build relationships with department leads. This establishes or strengthens their commitment to holding their group(s) accountable for deliverables. Agree on a baseline standard of timeliness. Where appropriate, engage senior leaders in ongoing discussions on SME timeliness to garner support outside the pressures of a live bid. Within two quarters of tracking, my team saw a 35% on-time delivery rate across two major contributing SME departments rise to 70% on-time.

 Opportunity Progression Rate

Why should we track this?

  • Reflects the proposal team’s contributions more accurately (as an alternative to win rate reporting)
  • Uses feedback on each opportunity and/or across similar bids to isolate trends, makes future improvements and identifies areas of focus and enhancement
  • Gives leadership an additional perspective or view into the proposal team’s value
  • Demonstrates your contributions by sharing your individual progression rate with your manager

How do we track it?

In a spreadsheet, quantify on a quarterly, biannual and/or annual basis what the advancement rate is at every stage in the buyer journey, tailoring this to your proposal team’s direct participation in the overall process, with two data points:

  • Did we advance to the next stage? Yes or no.
  • Why or why not? Articulate the reason(s).

Record this information across all opportunities, looking at this data point holistically, and socialize the progression rate figure as a percentage to key stakeholders in your organization.

Helpful tips

Closing the deal is primarily a function of sales. A win rate mirrors that effort. In a past organization, our progression rate showed that we advanced to the next stage in the buying process 76.9% of the time over the prior year. That same year, our actual win rate was 14.6% — a 62.3% gap. Having a progression rate provided a metric that demonstrated the positive contributions the proposal team made toward moving from one stage to the next in the buying cycle. An unremarkable win rate, however, didn’t tell the whole story. Consider adding a progression rate to your metrics arsenal.

Proposal Volume and Trends

Why should we track this?

  • Resources appropriately by directly linking proposal volume and trends to your staffing ratio. Raises awareness and makes a case for team growth or outside staffing support
  • Aligns perceptions with reality
  • Reports more than volume alone by showing proposal complexity and other relevant trends
  • Builds a sustainable proposal group with deep institutional knowledge, reducing burnout and turnover, and giving other departments a replicable experience with proposals
  • Equips the business for short- and long-term success

How do we track it?

Track each unique proposal “event” (RFI, RFP) in a central repository upon proposal close-out, recording:

  • Actual proposal hours spent by function (proposal director, manager, writer, as applicable) on each opportunity
  • Client tier type (small, medium large)

We used Salesforce as our central repository because sales and account management had shared access.

Helpful tips

Share overall volume/trends and key client segment volume/trends with your manager and other key parties (e.g., sales, senior leadership) to illuminate current state and outline a plan for the future. Drilling down to client tier and hours invested by function and complexity level can tell a more powerful story than volume alone can. In my team’s case, we had a 183% increase year-over-year (YOY) in medium bids and a 53% increase YOY in medium and large bids combined, while operating with 25–50% less staff than the prior year. These data points illustrated that our top two proposal tiers required a more significant investment of time and resources.

Having this body of information available and presenting it to the right people at the right time gives a full, objective picture of key metrics based on sound evidence and promotes positive, lasting change that benefits and extends beyond the proposal team.

Erin Andersen, CF APMP, is a driven, passionate, award-winning proposal executive who gets results while uplifting people and enabling organizations’ successes. With more than 15 years of proposal experience across commercial and government sectors, she has transformed teams and promoted the profession by consistently and successfully implementing proven proposal practices. She can be reached at linkedin.com/in/andersenerin.

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