Increase Your Win Rate - BEFORE the RFP Comes Out

By: Virginia McCoy, Ingenuity Marketing Group

Moderator: Kathy Tait

Panelists: Julie Esch (Mortenson Construction), Tanya Pierce (Clark Engineering), and Kate Yurko (DLR Group)


What do YOU think is the most important factor in increasing your chances at winning a project?

  • A) Qualifications
  • B) Dynamic Team
  • C) Understanding the Key Issues
  • D) Client Connections

While it’d be easy to choose “E. All of the Above”, we learned that from the list above that D. is the correct answer. During this education program, panelists presented their stories of success as well as tips and tricks on how to develop the relationships that make the difference for project selection.

Presentation Tidbits

Our moderator kicked off the program by introducing us to the SMPS report, “What It Takes to Win (in Any Market): The Cold, Hard Truth.” The report was delivered in 1991, 1999, and 2009, but had virtually the same results to a series of fundamental questions about the importance of developing client connections. After that, we heard from the panelists.

Q1: Describe how the roles of marketing, business development and seller-doer/technical expert work together in your respective firms to uncover key information and develop the necessary relationships to increase your win rate.

  • Spend time with the client to get a seat at the table and listen to them when you get there.
  • Get to know the client and if personalities aren't meshing, find someone within your firm who will work well with the client. The goal is to develop the relationship between your firm and the client.
  • It takes a team to win. It also takes an understanding of the client beyond what the project entails.

Q2: How do you get inside a client organization to reach the decision makers and better understand the dynamics of the organization?

  •          Leverage your relationships and find out how you can help the client.
  •          If you really want a particular client, think about any small projects you can complete for them to get a foot in the door.
  •          Be humble and honest with yourself when dealing with clients and internal teams.

Q3: What are the top tips/tricks/strategies you’ve used to reach the higher levels of a client organization? 

  • Identify opportunities to talk to the right people, but don't focus your lens too much on talking only to certain people.
  • Don’t assume someone is too high up in an organization to talk to. They may be the perfect contact.

Q4: Describe one to two things your firm does prior to a proposal that contributes to improving your win rate.

  • Determine your firm's unique differentiators to stand out from the competition then bring them to the client.
  • Consider implementing a required business development process and following it with each client. If there’s no background information on the firm’s relationship with the client when the RFP comes out, your firm is already behind.

Q5: How do you stay focused on the long-term goals and not get distracted?

  • Do the little things (emails, calls and quick tasks) first. This will help you stay focused on the long-term goals and not get distracted.
  • Challenge your team to stay focused on long-terms goals and help each other stay focused.

Bonus tips:

  •          Keep an ear open for any cross-selling opportunities for your firm and share them with your team.
  •          If you've waited for a project to get funding to meet with the client, you've missed the boat. Start relationship building early.


After hearing from our panelists, it’s no surprise that 89% of respondents said yes to the question, “Did anyone from your firm develop a relationship with anyone in the client’s organization involved in the project?” Yes, having strong qualifications, a dynamic team and understanding the key issues of the client is important – relationships are what matters most.

SMPS members can access “What It Takes to Win (in Any Market): The Cold, Hard Truth” on the SMPS website. If you’d like to become a member, click here.


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