Thursday, April 30, 2009

Capture Management –Between the Sales and Proposal Development Processes

Relationships are a well known part of the sales process. Sales personnel set up meetings and attend industry events to develop relationships with potential customers and refine relationships with existing customers. Many companies start their proposal when the solicitation is released; however savvy companies know the capture management and proposal processes start when they target an opportunity. Capture management activities function as the bridge between sales and proposal development. It is all tied together with the end goal of being awarded the contract. Government contracting does not occur in a vacuum. You will not be awarded a contract simply because you’re a small, 8(a), HUBZone, or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned (SDVOSB), or woman-owned business. They can’t award it simply because they like you and want to do business with you. They can award it to you if you submit at the very least a compliant proposal and show that you offer the best value solution or product. That’s how you win business and the only way to be successful is to start early, e.g., when the sales process starts.

The sales staff is responsible for chasing down and then vetting potential opportunities. Once a viable opportunity is identified by the sales/marketing person, the company should name an individual to function as the capture manager. Depending on how the company is organized, they may or may not be the same person. We recommend it be someone other than sales staff. Sales personnel need to be feeding the pipeline, not working on proposal-related activities.

The capture manager works in conjunction with the sales staff, although it is the capture manager’s responsibility to ensure that the opportunity is won. The capture manager uses the information gathered during the sales process to create a bid strategy, develop win themes and discriminators, identify potential teaming partners, address potential weaknesses, and ensure the proposal is compliant and submitted on time. Many times, the proposal manager also functions as the capture manager and works with the sales staff to stay up-to-date what is going on in the industry and at the agency.

The capture management activities are especially important when the company is the incumbent on a recompete. The capture manager, along with the sales staff, can uncover useful information to be included or addressed in their proposal. For instance, if you’re an incumbent, you sometimes have a better chance of losing the recompete than winning it? Why? Because you failed to realize that incumbent contracts have to also be included in your sales process. Incumbents often fail to treat existing customers the same way they woo potential customers. This is a never-ending process. Also, incumbents often minimize contract issues that are important to the customer. If you are effectively managing a contract, nothing will come as an unexpected surprise during the proposal process. However, companies often find out during the debrief after a loss that the customer was unhappy with their performance. Meeting with and calling project references should be a standard capture management process. If you have problems, then get them fixed prior to the proposal submission. The same process is used to uncover a company’s weaknesses when their contract is being recompeted.

The proposal may be viewed as the last stage of the sales process, but it really isn’t. It is a continuation of the sales process for the current opportunity and also the precursor to the beginning of the sales process for the new contract once it is awarded. In truth, the sales process never stops. Company are selling to secure new contracts and incumbent contractors are selling to their existing customers so competitors don’t have an advantage during the recompete.

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