Filtering opportunities

With too many opportunities for even the largest company to chase you’ll need a system for filtering out the opportunities you can expect to lead to good business.  You’ll find that using a simple scoring system helps in reaching consistent decisions quickly. 


If you haven’t got such a filtering system already a useful approach is to score each of the five categories below out of ten, with 10 being best. If any are less than 6 the opportunity is not usually worth pursuing. Total the five scores and pursue those with the highest score.


In scoring each of the five categories (qualification, relationships, capability, references and attractiveness) look at what the Contract Notice or the Request for Proposal is asking for. If, for example, they don’t ask for references then don’t score that category.  Try to get the criteria they will use to score your response to help you with your scoring.


The table below gives a simple illustration of how the categories can be scored.



Illustrative scores

Low score < 3

Medium score

High score > 8


Narrowly qualify

Comfortably qualify

Stand out as the type of organisation they want to do business with


Only seen key people at a distance

Have met key people briefly and discussed this opportunity

Know the decision makers and can expect a positive recommendation


Can do this but it’s not core business

It’s core business but competitors are equally good

You have a clear edge on the competition


Weak references or not really relevant

Solid references but not directly relevant e.g. private sector not government

Good references with this client or from similar clients who will substantiate when asked


Needs investment or there is risk to your reputation

Profitable business, the score depending on just how profitable

Profitable business that is likely to lead to more


Some potential opportunities will be discarded as each category is checked. For those that get through the filter the total score enables the survivors to be prioritised.


Do you meet the essential (usually called mandatory) requirements?, e.g.  Revenue in excess of “y” pounds, more than “x” staff having a specific qualification or able to provide published accounts for the last two years.  This is easy to score as it’s less subjective than the other categories and should be done first as if you don’t qualify the rest are irrelevant.  If you regularly give yourself a low score for business that would otherwise be attractive consider investing to correct the problem (for example two organisations that are both too small might combine or bid as a consortium).


Base your confidence that you understand what the buyer really wants and, how they will judge which supplier is most likely to provide it on your relationship with them. In scoring you should give a third of the marks each for:

  • How well you know the buyers (i.e. your level of understanding what they really want and how they will decide who to buy from),
  • The level of influence you have with them, and
  • How competent you rate them (and if you don’t know them be cautious about assuming competence).

If you regularly give yourself a low score, consider investing more in building networks and relationships.

Sales people typically overestimate the strength of relationships so if you aren’t doing this yourself ask for evidence e.g. when did you last meet and what did you discuss? It’s also worth testing the value of the relationship by asking if they will introduce you to a colleague.


In scoring this category you need a clear idea of how well you compare to your competitors in meeting the requirement.  For example you could be good at web development (score 8) and average at testing (score 5), so for a development project you would score highly but you wouldn’t score so well for a testing job.  In this example, if the project is half development and half testing, the score would be 6.5.


Without references the buyer is forced to rely on gossip or your prose to assess whether you are likely to do a good job.  Accordingly they will usually place a high importance on references.  You should be really ruthless in deciding if they support what you are offering to do, are from this or a similar client and will be substantiated by your clients.

Providing references is inconvenient for clients but important for your future business so find a way to encourage them .This is discussed later as its key to producing successful proposals.


The first three scoring criteria look outward to the client; this one looks back at you and what the business is worth. The score is based on evaluating risk, predicted revenue and margin, positioning and potential use as a reference for future business.  For example adding a new client to an existing service can give a high margin at low risk, and so scores highly, compared to developing something from scratch.

Risk is both important and easily ignored, and includes the risk of:

  • The procurement being delayed or cancelled
  • Bad publicity, particularly with high profile projects
  • Project failure due to factors outside your control

Your scoring should be heavily influenced by your perception of client attitude and track record, another reason why having a good network is important.