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Being active in your qualification

Part two of our series based on the bestselling Proposal Essentials by Jon Williams and BJ Lownie.

More than simply helping to decide which deals you should chase, a good qualification process will help you identify actions that could improve your likelihood of success. We call this active qualification – and it's not just a 'bid/ no-bid' decision. 

Our advice? Very early on in the sales cycle - and well before any customer RFP arrives – rate yourself against the four essential criteria we mentioned in the previous blog post:

1. Is it real?
2. Do we want it?
3. Can we win it?
4. Can we do it?

Now you need to assess the opportunity as objectively as possible against each of these criteria. Note down evidence to support your current rating. Now think about what you need your rating to be when the customer makes their choice, and write down all the actions you need to take to increase your win probability. At this point you still have plenty of time to improve your chances in each area.

Any red flags flying?

While you're scoring the opportunity, look out for current areas of weakness, and where you simply can't see a way to improve your scores. Double check whether these could in themselves be barriers to you winning the deal and, if they are, it might be worth considering a 'no bid', regardless of how well you're scoring in other areas.

What about your competitors?

And think about the competition, too. If your qualification score is - and is always destined to be - low, then consider whether any of your competitors would be scoring more highly. That too can have an impact on your decision to proceed or not.

Qualify. Qualify. Qualify.

You should re-qualify the deal repeatedly throughout the bid, whenever any new information comes to hand. Why? You might have picked up some new insights into the customer's views of your chances of success. You may discover that one of your competitors has an inside track or is already seen as the most likely winner. At the very least, when the RFP shows up, sense-check that your initial views were correct. If your assumptions around what the customer was looking for were incorrect, it might no longer makes sense to bid. Better to pull back from a losing bid part way through than to carry on regardless to the bitter end!

Thank you, but no.

Let's be clear. One day you'll sit down and realise you need to step back and quietly close the door on an opportunity. Having gone through your extensive qualification process you'll conclude that you don't think the project's going to work, or the deal's too small, or the RFP's a shambles, or you're simply not interested anymore.

But how do you break the news to the customer? A poorly communicated, last-minute change of heart is likely to cause offence, something you absolutely must avoid.

You'll need to make sure that you say 'no' to the client in such a way that they understand and respect your decision, and view you as being professional. Do this right and you'll enhance your overall reputation and improve your chances for future opportunities.


And no can lead to yes!

Sometimes 'no bidding' can increase your eventual chances of capturing the business. If the evaluators decide they don't like any of the suppliers who bid, or you find a way to work with more senior management to try and change or circumvent the customer's current sourcing approach, you could find yourself favourably placed.

Deciding to 'no bid' will throw up several questions:

How will the client react, and what does that tell us about your chances and strategy? 

Could you persuade them to change their requirements or process?

Could you enhance your chances of success via a non­ compliant bid?

Could you circumvent their process in some way without damaging the overall relationship?

If you do 'no bid', what should you say to leave the customer thinking that you're professional - so that they'd want to work with you in the future?

How should you go about breaking the 'no bid' news to the customer? (Who's best to have that discussion from your side - and with which stakeholder(s) in their organisation?)

As you can see, the 'no-bid' discussion requires careful planning and rehearsal. Both of which will be much easier if you've been through a rigorous qualification process.


To find out more about the key skills and tools necessary to develop powerful, compelling proposals contact our experts on 0800 009 6800 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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