Yes, you need to dump the Go-No Go process you use to vet incoming new business opportunities. It’s costing you money, draining your organization, and harming your reputation in your market.
You need to replace it with a new, more objective, dynamic process based on your likely probability of winning. I’ll describe it to you in this article. But first, some context.
We at Artemis have been increasingly alarmed as we see how many business development teams are pursuing every single opportunity that comes along. We believe firms are needlessly burning cash, man-hours, energy and morale in the fruitless pursuit of opportunities they have virtually no chance of winning. If they were rational about assessing their real position in the pursuit among their competition, they’d make better decisions. But so many who make such decisions use processes that are supposed to emphasize objectivity yet are gaming the system.
Here’s what I mean.
I know hundreds of professionals who are actively engaged in new business pursuits. They work in diverse professions such as advertising, architecture, engineering, aerospace and defense contracting, accounting, management consulting, and many others. And they have two things in common.
First, they’re optimists. Really big optimists. They have a strong, sometimes almost dogmatic belief in the capabilities of themselves, their colleagues, their internal processes and systems. Their ability to innovate. There isn’t a problem they can’t solve. And they think they can do it better than anyone else.
Second, they have an incoming opportunity vetting mechanism that’s designed to lead to a Go-No Go decision. And almost always leads to a Go. That’s because the typical Go-No Go process is easily manipulated to align with the optimism of the team. The team thinks that, since they believe they’re capable of winning (and might be fearful of losing out on a chance to win), they will score the Go-No Go in a way to lead to a Go.
I’ve heard these conversations when I work with a client for the first time. It often goes like this. The first part of each line, in bold type, represents the previously agreed qualifying criteria. Following each one is the “workaround” that the team decides on.
Our experience in the category - We don’t have very much, but we can learn about it as we prepare the RFP submission.
Our capabilities to solve the problem - We don’t have very much right now, but we can acquire them or learn them.
Our relationships with key prospect personnel - Few or none now, but they’ll be very impressed with our credentials and our solution.
The availability of our own resources to handle the proposal or, if we win, the project - We’re stretched kind of thin, but this is too good an opportunity to pass up. We’ll have to take a deep breath and do what needs to be done. And when we win, we’ll go out and find the resources we need.
The prospect’s fee expectations will lead to the right level of revenue for us - We’ll address fee when we finish first. Even if it’s low, it’s a foot in the door. We can always make more on the business in the future.
Our likelihood of winning is high - It’s not very high, but even if we lose, we’ll have met the key players, they’ll be impressed, and we’ll be better positioned for the next one.
Sound familiar? You can see how the team (or maybe the team leader) has forced a “Go” decision to come out of the discussion. Is it optimism? Or, as psychologists say, a case of Overconfidence Bias? What do you think the odds are of this team actually winning?
And that’s where we can go to find a replacement for the Go-No Go process. One that will work better, even with the risk of overconfidence bias.
We call it the Probability Assessment. It’s based on our fundamental understanding of how decisions are really made in virtually all highly competitive pursuits.
Buyers look at four factors in evaluating firms.
While the relative weights of these four factors can differ from prospect to prospect, Artemis believes the defaults look like this:
So let’s use that to judge our Win Probability. You give yourself a score from 0% to the maximum for each area. Your highest possible score, of course, is 100% - 28 for Solution, 31 for Understanding, etc. If the firm in the example above was being even a little realistic in their assessment of their Win Probability, they’d have to give themselves a total score of no more than 30% (and I’m being generous). In other words, they’d see themselves as the longshot they truly are.
Could you rig the scores? Of course. But you’d be subject to more challenges. How can you give yourself a 28 for Solution, when you have no experience in the category and/or few existing capabilities? How can you say you’re 25 in Chemistry if you’ve never met the decision-makers, and will be limited by the “Cone of Silence” that descends when an RFP drops?
Could a team still decide to pursue with a very low Win Probability score? Sure, if they think they can raise the score during the pursuit. And they should continually reassess to see if they are, in fact, doing that.
The Win Probability mechanism will force many teams to be more honest about where they stand. It should allow even the most optimistic teams to make better decisions, reduce the number of no-chance pursuits, and raise their overall business development ROI.
- Bob Wiesner, Managing Partner, The Americas