What's The Ideal Win Rate For A Boutique Consulting Firm?

It can be a strong symptom of a toxic business model.

Consultants ask me this question all the time, so I'll be straightforward here. If you sell to SMBs or mid-size companies and don’t win at least 70%-80% of all the proposals you are sending, something is wrong.

Most of the time, this can be the result of two main issues:

  1. A weak positioning: You are "shallow niching" or adopting a generic positioning. Your value proposition doesn’t resonate enough, and by consequence, you struggle to capture the mindshare of your audience.
  2. A flawed sales process: For a prospect to reach the proposal stage, you should have pre-qualified them, traded enough value, explored their needs and requirements, and proposed and discussed alternative solutions. If you rush discovery and skip trust-building, you are doing sales wrong.

My proposal to win rate in the past years is close to 90%, and for one key segment of my audience (UK-based consulting firms with 2-3 partners) it is 95%. Even when the prospect was actively considering other marketing professionals with a much bigger brand than mine.

I know a lot of consultants whose proposal to win rate is around the 20-30% mark. This is not healthy and should be a big red light to any consulting firm. It means you are wasting most of your pipeline value since your "bucket has a big leak".

A low proposal to win rate will not only impact your overall marketing ROI, but also your operations. It means you will need to spend a considerable time preparing proposals, which is an activity neither challenging nor entertaining that can't be outsourced or delegated. It will make your work less enjoyable.

In my experience, such a low win rate is a big sign that you are stuck in the "hamster-wheel" consulting model. When you narrow your positioning, get hyper-specific with your target audience, and move upstream with your delivery, prospects will increasingly see you as an expert. And competition becomes irrelevant.

Depending on the research sources, between 60 and 80% of the prospects’ decision was already made before getting in touch with you as a consultant. It's what Google calls the "Zero Moment of Truth".

That's why, even if you have a flawed sales process, you should always look at improving your positioning first. A clear and specific positioning is the best possible pre-qualification tool you have - it will vet out non-ideal prospects, and reduce the chances of you drafting generic proposals in the first place.

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