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How to Develop More Meaningful Win Probability Values for Opportunities
(and Why it Matters)
By Christina Leahy, CPSM
In the competitive world of Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C), firms who track win probabilities accurately and consistently are better positioned for long-term success than those who take a more casual approach. Why? Because the resulting data improves a firm’s ability to make informed strategic decisions, allocate resources effectively, accurately forecast projected revenue and win more profitable projects.
In this article, I’ll introduce steps and strategies you can follow to grow a meaningful win probability process in your firm.

What Win Probability Is (and Isn’t)

Let’s start by defining win probability. Win probability, also known as Get percentage, is a percentage value that represents the likelihood your firm will win a specific project opportunity. For example, if an opportunity is assigned a high win probability (above 75%), this means your firm believes there is a very good chance of successfully securing a contract for that project.
Note that win probability is different from project probability, which gauges the likelihood that a project moves forward, considering factors such as client commitment, funding availability, and decision-making timelines. Firms should consider both values when evaluating potential opportunities.

For win probability values to be meaningful, the process through which they are assessed and assigned should be standardized across your firm. Here’s how to get started.

How to Develop a Meaningful Win Probability Assessment Process

  1. Establish evaluation criteria that closely align with your firm’s strategic goals and marketing plan. These criteria may include project scope, technical complexity, client fit, budget, timeline, and risk assessment.
  2. Engage technical colleagues to define and weigh these criteria based on their expertise. Decision-makers should also provide input to ensure alignment with the overall business objectives.
  3. Standardize definitions for your evaluation criteria and ensure these definitions are understood across your firm. As a marketer, it's common to not possess a deep technical background, and it's easy to assume that your technically-minded colleagues share a common understanding of these terms. However, this assumption is often incorrect. In fact, a non-technical colleague's perspective can offer valuable objective insights that help establish a shared understanding among all parties involved.
  4. Adopt a common approach to assigning win probability values to opportunities. This approach can be simple to start with and get more sophisticated over time.
  5. Schedule periodic reviews with colleagues to re-assess and refine how you assess and assign win probability values.

What’s “New”? It depends: Why clear definitions for evaluation criteria matter.

When it comes to evaluation criteria, even seemingly self-evident terms such as "New Client" require a clear definition to avoid misunderstandings and ensure consistency.

Defining "New Client"

A/E/C firms typically define a New Client as a company or agency with whom the firm has not previously worked. However, there may be nuances that need to be spelled out. For example:
  • Time. Some firms define New Client as a company with whom the firm hasn’t worked with since a specific period of time (such as two years). This criteria needs to be spelled out in the definition.
  • Location. It is also important to clarify whether the “New Client” definition applies to the company overall or to a specific location or agency within the client's organization. For example, if a company has worked with the New York branch of your firm before but this will be its first work with your Texas branch, is the client “new” to your Texas branch or not? This distinction is essential, as different branches or agencies within a larger organization may have distinct decision-making processes, budgets, and project requirements.
Seeking clarity and fostering open communication when it comes to defining evaluation criteria helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards a common goal.

Assigning Win Probability Values to Opportunities

Once your evaluation criteria are defined and shared, your firm can start using them to assess the win probability for current opportunities. Typically, project managers or business developers lead the assessment process, often incorporating contributions from other technical and marketing colleagues.
The outcome of the win probability assessment process is a percentage value that gets assigned to the opportunity. Different firms take different approaches to arrive at this value. Many AEC firms start with a purely subjective approach and progress to a more systematic method as they become more sophisticated.
Here are four common approaches taken by AEC firms to assign win probability values:

1. Subjective Assessment:

This approach relies on subjective assessments based on the collective experience and intuition of the team involved. While this approach offers flexibility, it lacks the objectivity and consistency necessary for accurate assessments, leaving the door open for some to assign high values to projects based on feelings rather than facts. Nevertheless, this method can be valuable in the initial stages of developing win probability values and can serve as a starting point for tracking and quantifying colleagues' estimates of success. It creates a useful metric that can be referenced later as you work towards developing more structured and objective criteria.

2. Defining a Range of Possible Values:

A slightly more sophisticated approach involves providing a range of selected win probability values with clear definitions for each value. For example:
  • High Probability (75-100%): Indicates strong positioning, competitive advantage, and high likelihood of winning.
  • Medium Probability (25-75%): Indicates moderate positioning, a balanced competitive landscape, and a realistic chance of success.
  • Low Probability (0-25%): Indicates weak positioning, intense competition, and low chances of winning.

3. Stage-Based Assessments:

In this approach, probability values are adjusted as the opportunity progresses through different stages of the pursuit, considering factors such as client engagement, pre-proposal activities, and decision-maker feedback. This approach allows for a more dynamic assessment as the project evolves and more information becomes available.

4. Calculated Results from a Go/No-Go Form:

A structured go/no-go form can provide the most systematic approach to calculating win probability. The form can include key factors such as project fit, client commitment, team capability, and risk analysis. Each factor is assigned a weighted score, and the cumulative score determines the win probability. This method introduces objectivity and consistency into the assessment process.

Incorporating Project Likelihood and Funding Probability

As your firm progresses to more sophisticated win probability assessments, it becomes increasingly valuable to add project likelihood and funding probability to your analysis. Both metrics are essential elements for evaluating potential opportunities and guiding strategic decision-making within A/E/C firms.
Project likelihood entails assessing the chances of a project advancing through each stage of the procurement process and moving forward. This evaluation encompasses factors such as client commitment, project feasibility, and alignment with the firm's capabilities.
Funding probability evaluates the availability and viability of funding sources for the project.
By incorporating project and funding probabilities into their analyses, A/E/C firms can make more strategic decisions about targeting pursuits and allocating resources to projects with higher chances of securing the necessary financial backing.

Regularly Re-Assess Win Probability Values

It's important to schedule periodic reviews with colleagues to reassess win probability values within the context of hit and capture rates, industry trends, and other relevant factors. By scheduling these reviews quarterly or annually, your firm can continually refine its evaluation criteria and assignment methods.
This iterative process enables your firm to incorporate new insights, adjust strategies, and adapt to changing market conditions. It also promotes collaboration, encourages knowledge sharing, and ensures that win probability values remain accurate and relevant. A/E/C firms who actively engage in regular reviews can improve their decision-making, increase their competitive advantage, and enhance their overall win rates.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to developing a meaningful process for assessing win probability values, the key elements for success are:
  • Use agreed-upon criteria: Ensure that the evaluation criteria used to assess win probability are well-defined and shared among all colleagues involved in the process.
  • Start simply: When initially assigning win probability values, it’s OK to be subjective. The important thing is to get everyone started.
  • Be consistent: Assigning win probability values to every pursuit is crucial. Even if only the marketing team provides the values, having data for each pursuit contributes to meaningful analysis later.

There are tools that can help you start simply and transition to more sophisticated approaches as you progress. Look for solutions like Unanet CRM (formerly Cosential), which is purpose-built for A/E/C firms and has a strong track record of helping customers succeed.
By embracing the strategies outlined in this article, your firm can establish a solid foundation for accurately and consistently tracking win probability values. This, in turn, will lead to improved collaboration, more informed decision-making, and ultimately increased profitability by winning more of the right deals for your firm.
Christina Leahy, CPSM is a Senior Sales Enablement Engineer at Unanet CRM (formerly Cosential). She has decades of experience as an A/E/C marketer and database and organizational consultant. Her experience includes database development, implementation and training; marketing management; proposal preparation and coordination; public relations and integration management. She has conducted numerous presentations to chapters across the country on the topics of effective marketing, organizational systems and design. A recent CPSM, she a keen interest in how Unanet CRM can leverage new technologies to improve marketing and business development for A/E/C firms.