Avoiding the Pwin “Lie”

Understanding your REAL probability of win on a proposal effort will help you make better bid decisions. To do so, you must look past one of the most common dishonesties in the Federal Government contracting industry. It’s the Probability of Win (Pwin) Lie. Allow me to explain this lie and, more importantly, the trap that it creates.

I was a small business teaming partner on an abysmal proposal effort. When it was becoming obvious that our proposal was falling apart at the seams, the prime bidder’s proposal manager asked me what we should do to improve our Pwin. I told him that the only way we could improve our Pwin to anything above zero was to bid on another RFP. Despite a zero chance of winning, the proposal manager had promised a 75% Pwin to his leadership. After such a grandiose claim, he felt “trapped” and compelled to go through with a “dog” bid, rather than recommending to his leadership that we cut our losses and walk away. The genesis of this catastrophe was “the lie,” his promised 75% Pwin.

Ask nearly any proposal manager or business executive what his Pwin is for any proposal effort. Or ask him what his historic Pwin average is. Trust me, you’ll hear “the lie.” During job interviews, I have never met anybody who has stated that their historic Pwin was less than 50%. Usually, they claim somewhere around 70% to 80%. On rare occasion and only after they have the job, they may acquiesce to a 30%-win probability on a specific challenging bid opportunity. Pardon my French, but this is total crap. For every person who has a historic win rate of 80%, there are at least a half-dozen folks who have single digit win rates. Shockingly, I’ve never met one of these folks though!

As an entrepreneur and business owner, I didn’t have to live in this fantasy or perpetuate “the lie.” This allowed me to make more honest bid decisions. By not having to perpetuate “the lie,” you can honestly select opportunities that are best aligned to your situation. Plus, you avoid the trap of being compelled to bid on “dog” opportunities, even after you realize that you have no chance of winning. It is SO much easier to walk-away from a “low” Pwin bid than one where you believe you should win. In fact, I minimized “the lie” because I didn’t care how many RFPs I lost. I only cared about the ones that I won.

When you’re a small business in the Federal Government contracting industry, your Pwin is irrelevant. Of course, it’s something that you will want to track to monitor improvement, but your Pwin does not make you money. Here me out. Would you rather have your company go “10 for 10” next year and win ten 1-person contracts…or would you rather go “1 for 10” and win a single 35- person contract? It’s not Pwin that’s going to make you wealthy. It’s Return-on-Investment (ROI). However, an HONEST Pwin assessment helps you make better ROI decisions.