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Why lead qualification is not enough to win your pursuits

You need to know more — a lot more — to close the sale with a winning proposal

The things you need to know to determine if a lead is worth pursuing are different from what you need to know to close the sale with a winning proposal. A sales process that qualifies your leads is important. It is also not enough to win. If you are addressing "Should we pursue this" and "Should we bid this" as if they are the same thing in a single meeting, it's a bad sign.

Lead qualification is a determination of whether it is worth investing in the pursuit of a business lead. A qualified lead is worth pursuing. A lead that is not qualified is not worth the time or expense. Sometimes companies try to base their lead qualification and bid/no bid decisions on their probability of winning the pursuit. But if we’re being honest, this is just a guessing game. You may be using a carefully concocted algorithm and going for a SWAG instead of a WAG (look them up), but it’s still a WAG.

Instead of trying to calculate probability, you will get better information by considering whether the lead meets criteria like:

See also:
Bid/No Bid Decisions
  • Size, scope, and complexity
  • Staffing, resource, and qualification requirements
  • Anticipated release schedule
  • Risk
  • Your ability to bid competitively (the best you can achieve by trying to predict win probability)
  • Strengths and weaknesses relative to your competitors
  • Relevance to the company’s strategic plans and target markets
  • Acceptable terms and conditions
  • Any information advantage or other advantages you might have
  • Your differentiators

Most companies include information like the above in their lead tracking or CRM systems.

However, most companies miss other important considerations that include whether you have an information advantage and your readiness to write a great proposal (this is not the same as willingness to try). Whether you have an information advantage, how strong your information advantage is, and whether your information advantage provides what is needed to write a great proposal can all be quantified. Whether the customer will pick your bid to win can’t be quantified. 

Whether you are ready to write a great proposal is determined by whether you can answer the questions your proposal writers will have when writing the proposal. Most companies rely on salespeople to supply the right information based on their experience alone and their proposals end up being based on:

  • The random nuggets of insight their salespeople dig up
  • Whether those random nuggets get articulated and delivered in a form the proposal writers can use, which is usually not the case

While it is clearly better than nothing to work with and can sometimes be decisive, it is also clear that people are fallible and perform better as part of a process that provides inspiration, guidance, and reminders. No matter how good your proposal writers are at wording around the information they don’t have, they can’t write as strongly as they could if they had the right information.

See also:
Information Advantage

Proposal writers have lots of questions. On PropLIBRARY you will find hundreds of examples of the questions that proposal writers typically have so they can write a better proposal. Your ability to anticipate these questions determines your success at developing an information advantage. 

Training your salespeople to answer these questions and giving them the tools that integrate these questions into the pursuit enable your salespeople to operate at a higher level. It’s the difference between sending them out into the field on their own, and sending them out with the tools and support they need to play an active role in gathering the information needed to close the sale with a win. All people do better work when they have quality checklists, guidance, and tools to work with.

One of the reasons that companies have capture managers is because going from lead qualification to developing an information advantage requires different goals and customer interactions. It also requires knowing what questions to ask, which in turn requires understanding the nature of what your company offers, what it will take to be competitive, what goes into a winning offering, and what will be required to write the winning proposal. Capture managers specialize in going beyond lead qualification and preparing for a proposal. But even capture managers perform better with checklists and tools to guide them. 

Instead of trying to build it all into your CRM, you might want to consider developing a capture platform in between the lead tracking system or CRM you use for lead qualification and the document management tools you use during proposal development. This is where we’ve positioned MustWin Now. In our experience using MustWin Now during the capture phase, we find that very little information in most CRMs needs to be transferred into MustWin Now. And the information gathered in MustWin Now is far more relevant to winning the proposal than what is found in most CRMs. Plus, MustWin Now helps you drive your insights into the proposal in ways that no CRM systems can do. In fact, most proposal departments don’t have access to their company’s CRM system. Most proposal staff don’t need access to their CRM, because it doesn’t contain the information they need.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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