Bidding on government opportunities without proper capture planning is like taking a pile of $100 bills and going to a pool hall to play against the local pool sharks. In government proposals, just like in the pool hall, there are those who know what they are doing, and those who don’t. Those who know what they are doing understand that the key to success is starting early by doing pre-proposal preparation work called capture. Those who don’t should read this article, because I am about to save you a lot of money.
There are six fundamental aspects of capture that are completely interconnected. Miss one, and your pre-proposal preparation effort becomes incomplete in EVERY aspect, lowering your probability of winning exponentially.
The first aspect is Customer Relationship.
It goes without saying that the sales process for the government is not that different from the commercial sales process – you have to have a relationship with the buyer. Companies that believe they can find an opportunity on FedBizOpps, submit proposal, and WIN – are wasting a lot of money and energy. Just because the government is required to publically post their procurements does not mean that you should go ahead and bid, and this is a level playing field. There is ALWAYS much more to the story than you see posted on FedBizOpps or some agency website; and there is ALMOST ALWAYS a human aspect to the equation, where people are much more likely to trust more someone they know than someone they don’t.
You have to know exactly with whom to build the relationship – how to approach them, and how to continue working with them until the door shuts and the RFP comes out.
From these relationships, you will gain the understanding of what keeps your customer up at night, and what are the influences on their buying process. In the process, you have to build an effective rapport so that the customer knows and likes you. You can even use this relationship to influence the requirements or pre-vet your solution.
The second aspect is Win Strategy.
Win Strategy is a comprehensive plan that prepares you to finish on top; it looks at all aspects of the opportunity, and leaves no stone unturned. It incorporates a priority-driven action plan with deadlines and belly buttons assigned to each task. Win strategy also incorporates the development of resulting win themes, and the best value story.
The third aspect is Competitive Analysis.
The point of a competitive analysis is to identify your main competitors’ likely strategies and shortfalls. Then, you develop a way to outdo them through strategic actions, and subtly exploit their flaws in your proposal. You have to remember, however, that everything is dynamic, and your competitors may be working just as hard as you to overcome their flaws in time for the RFP release, so take it into consideration.
The fourth aspect is Teaming.
This aspect includes the development of a teaming strategy, identification of partners and subcontractors, negotiation of teaming or subcontracting arrangements, and getting together a team of great companies before someone else snatches them up.
The fifth aspect is Intelligence Gathering.
I will forever quote Wendy Frieman, a “main thrust” proposal manager from CSC, who says: “BEST INFORMED WINS!” You need to gather comprehensive intelligence from a variety of LEGAL sources (because this is an area where companies have been known to get in trouble). Then, you have to document this intelligence in a way that is useful for the proposal team. This intelligence fuels every aspect of your capture effort and your proposal response.
The sixth, and the final major aspect of capture is Solution Development (Pre- and Post- Draft RFP).
This stage includes the development of a Concept of Operations (CONOPS), postulating key requirements, solution architecture development, program/system concept refinement, and draft executive summary development – all in preparation for the handover to the proposal team. This stage is extremely important because as you start developing the solution, you will find out that you have more and more questions that you can then get answers to through all the other five aspects of capture.
Those who know what they are doing when bidding on government proposals stand to make a lot of money because the U.S. Government is the largest customer in the world. Mastering capture is your key to joining their ranks.