In our series covering the Seven Deadly Proposal Sins, we have discussed the first three: Pride, Gluttony and Greed. The articles cover the common mistakes we come across throughout our work as business development consultants. Committing one or more of these sins is the surest way to waste resources on a losing bid.
The fourth proposal sin, Envy, impedes growth in a different way than the first three sins. It manifests itself as a self-limiting belief that culminates in an inferiority complex. Envious companies don’t believe they can deliver a winning proposal for larger and more complex opportunities. They are more competitor-focused than customer-focused. They fixate on what they don’t have as compared to large business proposal departments. They automatically no-bid on anything that looks like a challenge, and justify it by saying “we couldn’t possibly compete with their size, resources, experience, and agency footprint.” They don’t even try. They go only after small bids, socio-economic set-asides, or sole source deals. Envy triggers fear that hampers companies’ attempts to transition from subbing to priming large indefinite delivery vehicles and full and open competitions.
Most envious companies confuse fatalism for realism. When they do bid, they put a half-hearted effort with insufficient resources into a proposal because they feel that they have a low chance of winning. When that substandard proposal loses, it simply reaffirms their defeatist stance. They secretly suspect there may be more to why they lose, but never go past attending a debrief to get to the bottom of their poor win_rates. They don’t critically evaluate the quality of their proposal, and don’t collect the lessons learned from the proposal process, to do better next time. They don’t make drastic changes. They just chuck up the loss to being smaller, poorer, less experienced, and less connected than their competitors. Many envious companies therefore stay a subcontractor for longer than necessary, and under-achieve.
Mitigating Envy: Where it comes to size, it is important to remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side. For example, large businesses complain that more and more opportunities now go to small businesses. Small size is an advantage in federal contracting. A small business can exploit the “rule of two.” It states that if there are two or more small businesses capable of performing a contract, the procurement becomes a small business set-aside. A small company can prompt other small businesses to submit request for information (RFI) responses or contact the small business office to show that there are several capable small businesses available, to ensure that the procurement goes the small business route. Large firms can leverage the same program to their advantage if they have a well-positioned small business prime, to outmaneuver their competition.
Lack of resources can be overcome through good teaming agreements where every teammate contributes its resources into a proposal pool, because work share is not welfare. The resources may include subject matter experts, professional proposal staff, production capabilities, or even a portion of the funds towards hiring a consultant. To prevent chaos stemming from combining resources from multiple teammates, use a competent proposal manager who knows how to run a large proposal team. He or she has to coach inexperienced writers and guide them properly to produce a superior proposal.
Lack of experience and agency footprint could be mitigated through proactive capture. “Tracking the RFP” is not a step of a proper business development process. There are customer visits to complete, intelligence nuggets to gather, win_strategies to devise, solutions to refine, competitors to ghost, and teammates to identify. The secret to success is to start early when good companies with agency experience are not yet taken. Using a capabilities and past performance matrix is a systematic way to ensure outstanding coverage in each task area.
In a nutshell, acting bold but smart is how one combats Envy, reduces stress, and perhaps even intimidates competition. If you are a company feeling the pangs of Envy, struggling to get in front of RFPs, doubting your proposal quality, or lacking a rigorous capture and proposal process, please reach out to us for training or free consultation.
Business Development and Operations Manager
Because there is no second place in proposals!TM