Overcoming difficulties in calling government customer

At OST, we often get a call to line up proposal support for an upcoming RFP. We hear that “RFP is about to drop, so send us a proposal manager, pronto.” Instead of reaching out to our consultants, however, we first pick up the phone and call the contracting officer to find out whether the RFP is truly expected to drop on the stated date. Sadly, often our prospective clients operate with old capture data. They ramp up, spend the money, and all the while they don’t do the simplest thing – pick up the phone.

Same during the capture process – many times companies COULD find out from the customer what the customer really needs, but they don’t. It’s true that many govies won’t talk to us, and many of us have become gun shy. We are afraid to reach out. We are reluctant to ask for a visit. We get comfortable in that dark cone of silence that the government bidding process becomes at times – and forget to venture out to seek clarity. Or, we feel constrained by our jobs: “I am a proposal manager (or technical writer), and I don’t interface with customers in our organization.” It doesn’t help that your personnel designated to interface with the customer fails to do so as well. As a result, we miss precious opportunities to learn more about our customers’ needs – and to write winning proposals.

People generally lean towards one or the other side of the spectrum: “people people” and “project people.” If you are a people person, you are probably right now shrugging your shoulders and saying that you have no problem calling anyone. If you are more of a project person, like most proposal managers and some capture managers, the story may be different.

  • Do you ever find yourself reluctant calling a person you haven’t met, or find yourself procrastinating making that call even though you know you should have done it much earlier?
  • Do you feel like you don’t know what to say to the customer?
  • Do you already make excuses for the other person inside your head as to why they wouldn’t want to talk to you or see you?

In our capture courses, we teach many simple techniques to get you through the reluctance to call the customer. Here are three that may just do the trick for you.

  1. First and foremost, know what’s allowed and what is not. Calling the contracting officer about an RFP drop date, for example, is perfectly OK. Understand the acquisition lifecycle and where things are at any given moment with your opportunity, and you will know what the limitations are (if any). Also know that the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) strongly encourage communication between the government and industry before receipt of proposals (FAR 15.201). It is the case because your inputs and better understanding of government needs usually lead to better project execution.
  2. Second, do not go in cold. Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the agency and its mission, customer’s organization, and the opportunity you are interested in.
  3. Third, prepare how you are going to introduce yourself, and what questions you are going to ask, but do not worry so much about what to say – you are there to listen first and foremost, and ask more questions to find out further details.

If all else fails or your company has a policy against anyone calling the customer, find someone in your organization who has a relationship with the customer and would make that call for you (and remind them to do so till they do). The more customer visits or calls you make, on your own or through others, the more comfortable you will become at doing it.

Of course, there is a lot more to interfacing with the customer and building relationships.

This week is the last opportunity to sign up for our Foundations of Capture Management class (Jan 31-Feb 1, 2012) where you will have a chance to learn how to do it and practice in our hands-on exercises. The class covers the Customer aspect of capture (along with the other five capture aspects) in detail, and will enable you to practice and develop a capture strategy, a capture plan, and integrate the lessons from the class. Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, OST’s President and CEO, will be teaching this class herself. Register at: www.ostglobalsolutions.com/capture-management-training

We will also hold a Foundations of Proposal Management course (Feb 2-3, 2012) that offers a rich toolbox of the most sophisticated best practices-based techniques and tools for every step of the way. It is an interactive 2-day workshop that is 40 percent lecture, 50 percent exercises, and 10 percent discussion. It is built around a hands-on proposal development simulation exercise to practice, discuss, and integrate each step of the proposal process. Olessia will be teaching this class as well. Register at: www.ostglobalsolutions.com/proposal-management-training


Coming soon:

– Task Order Manual Template for your IDIQs, and
– Announcement of our Certification program.

Stay tuned!


Would you like more resources for Proposal Development?

Date Class
Jan 31 – Feb. 1, 2012 or
Apr. 17-18,  2012
Foundations of Capture Management. This class will arm you with real knowledge and tools you can apply immediately to capturing contracts. Master techniques for customer engagement, intelligence gathering, win strategy development, competitive analysis, teaming, solution development, and more. This is an interactive 2-day workshop that is 40 percent lecture, 50 percent exercises, and 10 percent discussion. It will teach you real skills to raise win probability of the government contracts you pursue.
Feb. 2-3, 2012 or
Apr. 19-20,  2012
Foundations of Proposal Management. This course offers a rich toolbox of the most sophisticated best practices-based techniques and tools for every step of the way. It is an interactive 2-day workshop that is 40 percent lecture, 50 percent exercises, and 10 percent discussion. It is built around a hands-on proposal development simulation exercise to practice, discuss, and integrate each step of the proposal process.
Feb. 6-7, 2012 or
Apr. 23-24, 2012
Proposal Speed-Writing and Persuasion. This unique course shows how to develop compliant and highly persuasive proposal sections in at least half the time that it would normally take. It covers detailed methods for outlining within the sections, developing section content, infusing proper structure and flow, and implementing correct writing processes and section planning techniques. But this course goes beyond mere compliance.
Mar. 12, 2012 Cost Proposal Strategy for Proposal Managers. Manage the cost volume effectively and maximize your win probability. This course offers practical tools for proposal managers on everything from cost volume basics to process, data calls, assumptions, compelling cost volume narrative, WBS, BOEs, price to win, and cost strategies.
Mar. 15-16, 2012 Advanced Capture Management. This course takes capture management to the next level – what does it take to maximize win probability; mastermind the most effective win strategy using cutting edge techniques; masterfully facilitate brainstorming sessions such as Black Hats, Win Strategy Sessions, and CONOPS workshops; perform advanced competitive analysis; create advantageous teaming arrangements; apply formulas to solution development; and much more. The course also focuses on measuring and improving cost-efficiency and effectiveness of the capture team.
March 19-20, 2012 Preparing Winning Multiple Award and Task Order Proposals. Everything you need to know to prepare winning multiple award contracts (IDIQ, GWAC, MAC, MAS, BPA, etc.) and the task order proposals that follow. This class will show you how to dominate task order competition and become the number one winner to maximize earnings from your IDIQs.

 


P.S.: As always – if you need business development, capture, and proposal support, contact us at 301-384-3350 or at service@ostglobalsolutions.com.

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