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You just found a lead. Now what?

First you need to qualify it. Qualifying a lead means making sure that it’s worth pursuing.

  • Is it real?
  • Is it big enough?
  • Is it the right type?
  • Can you win it?

But the truth is that you should be qualifying the lead continuously. And the questions you ask in lead qualification are similar to the questions you should be asking during every phase of the pursuit.

Once you qualify the lead, you need to prepare to win it. This is a combination of things you need to do and things you need to find out. You do this by seeking the answers to more questions.

When most companies get a lead, they ask themselves what they can find out about it. Sometimes they discover good information and are quite pleased with themselves. But usually, when the RFP is released and they start asking the real questions that they need to put it in writing, they find that they are unprepared.

This is because they have not used the time before RFP release to the maximum advantage and because the information they gathered did not add up to what they need to know to win. You can never overcome these two challenges until you bring some structure to how you approach the pre-RFP pursuit.

You need to break down the time before RFP release into parts, so that you can allocate action items and information gathering activities and then track their progress. Tracking the progress of leads means you need check-in milestones and some way to measure progress.

The way we approach this in our process is to break the time before RFP release down proportionately into four reviews. We take what we need to know in order to win and allocate the questions across those four reviews. When we get to a review date, we grade whether the answers we’ve gathered are sufficient for us to be ready to win at RFP release.

We call our approach to the pre-RFP pursuit phase Readiness Reviews. One of the things that results from grading your progress at set reviews is that you can collect metrics. If you divide the questions and action items into categories like customer awareness, opportunity awareness, competitive awareness, and self-awareness, you can measure how your score at each phase in each area correlates with your win rate. Over time, this can help you decide how to prioritize your efforts.

But the primary value is that you can measure whether you are becoming more or less ready to win before the RFP is even out. Even if you have qualified a lead, if you have not done your homework and become uncompetitive it may be best to drop the pursuit. Companies have a difficult time doing this when deciding whether a pursuit is competitive is a subjective argument. But when you see the scores, it’s a bit more objective. If you track the metrics, it becomes concrete.

This becomes critical in an environment where more companies are chasing more leads to make up for the fact that the leads are smaller due to budget cuts, and are doing it with less staff to keep their overhead low. It only makes it worse that customers are more price-sensitive than ever. The result is that instead of holding on to every possible lead, you now want to drop every lead in which you don’t have an information advantage.

Holding onto every lead means your win rates will go down and those you do win will have lower margins. But to develop an information advantage and be able to know which leads are on track you need to implement a structure like we’ve described. In a more competitive environment, those that do will gain market share. Those that don’t will starve and fade away.

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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