With capture, many companies focus on the obvious: what are the company’s internal capabilities and the offering – and what can the company do in response to the customer needs. However, there are multiple other factors to take into account when capturing a contract that are all too often overlooked. There is no one right formula for every capture opportunity – but fortunately, I have discovered through years of practice and research that there is a simple model which you can use to tailor your capture effort to your customer and the procurement.
Capture includes six fundamental aspects that are completely interconnected. Miss one, and your pre-proposal preparation effort becomes incomplete in every aspect, lowering your probability of winning exponentially. By thinking of capture as six interdependent circles of influence, you can easily remember which parts need to progress on a weekly basis, and if you haven’t addressed one of these, how the other parts get impacted.
The first aspect of capture is your 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 when the RFP comes out, submit proposal, and win are wasting a lot of money and energy.
Just because an RFP is released on FBO so anyone can bid on it doesn’t mean that everyone should. 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 – people always trust someone they know more 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 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 Intelligence Gathering. I will forever quote Wendy Frieman, a 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 third aspect is Win Strategy. A 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 fourth aspect is Competitive Analysis. The point of 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 that into consideration.
The fifth 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 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. This is also the stage when you get to prepare for the proposal, and plan your post-RFP effort.
If you are looking to win more proposals, plan to spend at least as much on capture as on proposal development.