One of the biggest challenges for the professional service firm is learning from losing. Most of us familiar with the request for qualifications/interview/select/negotiate/award (RFQ) process, know that odds are decidedly not in our favor. Like baseball’s best .300-average hitters, a great “hit rate” is usually about 30-35 percent. But that also means that more than half the time you are not on the winning team.

The measure of the strong practice is its resilience to loss. Unfortunately, many firms see this process as just a numbers game. Thinking that by submitting on as many RFQ opportunities as possible, the percentages will average out is what makes Las Vegas casino owners smile. While a strong portfolio of experience and resident experts may get the attention of a client during the submittal review, it is rare that those same qualifiers will alone win the work.

When a project is lost, whether at the submittal stage or at the interview, the best course of action is not to keep cranking out qualifications statements for under-qualified opportunities, but to continue to develop the relationship with the clients you actually want to work with. Spending time and money on to really know and understand a potential client’s needs, more often than not, put you a step ahead of the competition.

So if that loss was for a client you really want, set up a meeting to debrief. Talk about the plusses the wining firm had, not the minuses of your submittal or interview team. Learn what they value, and take it to heart.

The criteria I have found best for identifying new potential clients is creating a list of those companies who look like my best (i.e., most revenue, most profitable) clients. Mindlessly chasing anything that moves is a waste of time and talent.

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I have been active in the building industry for more than 35 years, holding leadership roles in design, project management, marketing, business development, strategic planning, and operations.