You vs. Competition The Capture Plan: New Rules of Engagement
Proposals and presentations need to be 100% focused on the client and project.
This level of focus requires targeted relationship building and knowledge acquisition that requires months, and even years, of strategic pursuit planning.
If your firm relies on traditional business development activities that focus on building personal relationships with only high visibility decision-makers, you are limiting your ability to influence and build trust with the “invisible” decision-makers. Unfortunately, when the RFP is released you will probably discover that the sum total of your knowledge is based on a relationship with only one of multiple decision-makers, or on input from someone who isn't even a member of the selection committee.
In the complex B2B selection process, selection committees include people up, down, and even sideways on the client’s organizational chart. Some committees include individuals who aren’t even on the org chart. Peer reviewers, subject-matter experts, planners, program/construction managers, and even people from unrelated departments are often included to ensure a “fair and equitable” selection process.
On a proposal I recently worked on for a client, the high visibility leader who met with service providers was excluded from the selection process to ensure a completely non-biased decision. I have also recently been part of the proposal team for several comprehensive design-build proposals for projects in excess of $100 million. In each case the proposal team was prohibited from revealing their identity. Therefore, the quality and comprehensive nature of the knowledge obtained through business development and marketing activities, and not the relationship, is what enabled the team to develop a winning proposal.
If your marketing is not focused and you primarily develop strategies for proposals only after RFQ/RFP’s are released, you have a major disadvantage. In many situations, client contact is prohibited once the competitive process begins. Even if you are able to speak with the client after the proposal is released, your efforts at developing a relationship are clearly self-serving. You can't build trust when there is a clear monetary goal on the line, and trust is one of the most important considerations a prospect makes when selecting a service provider. It is critical to demonstrate that you care about the prospect’s problems and can solve them well before a project becomes public knowledge.
What is Capture Planning?
Capture planning is the process of identifying opportunities, assessing the environment, and implementing winning strategies oriented toward capturing a specific business opportunity.
The information your team accumulates provides the basis for developing a winning value proposition, or as I like to call it “the project story”. It is laser-focused on the client's goals, issues, and requirements. Working a strategic process over an extended period of time will enable your firm to use multiple marketing and business development tactics, “infiltrating” your client's organization at all levels. Periodically it is important for you to review the capture plan with your team, evaluating what you know about the project, and what you don't know. Filling in the blanks requires an extraordinary amount of research, creativity, collaboration, and customization. A capture plan helps you navigate this process.
WARNING: Failure to Differentiate
The Commodity Trap
Do you wonder why your "good old" proposals and presentations are losing you more work than you are winning?
Here is a quick test to see if you need to up your game:
- Open up the last proposal you submitted.
- Look at your cover letter and/or the first page of your executive summary and each subsequent section.
- Count the number of paragraphs and sentences that begin with I, we, or your firm’s name.
If your count was more than five, then you fail the test. You are selling to yourself, focusing on what you think is important. You are utterly failing to differentiate your firm.
Your client only cares about how you are going to make his project a success and the proof you provide that demonstrates your capabilities. Rainmakers in B2B selling know that to win you have to make your focus 100% on your client.
- What does your client care about?
- Why is it important for your client’s project to be a success?
Your client has a vision. Your client has friends who work with your competitors. Your client has concerns about your ability to deliver. Your client does not care about how long you have been in business or all the wonderful projects you have completed for others.
What Successful Firms Do that is Different
The top three initiatives of high performers reported in the Deltek Clarity Report include:
1. Strategic networking to expand teaming options.
2. Earlier identification of opportunities and requirements.
3. Better opportunity identification.
Additionally, high growth firms are 75% more likely to be highly specialized. They succinctly state their value proposition and have clearly defined differentiators. They have active communications/social media plans in place, use a CRM to track prospects and clients, and allocate resources to inbound marketing strategies.
Why Your Firm Needs a Go/No-Go Process
Having executed a pursuit plan is not an excuse for foregoing a go/no analysis. However, only 38% of the Deltek study respondents claim that they use a formal go/no go process for all opportunities, while 19% say they don’t have one at all. The fact is while comprehensive due diligence will improve your ability to win projects, it may also reveal significant factors that lower your probability of success. For instance, you discover that one of your competitors has a clear advantage, you find out that your client's "must have" project manager isn’t available for the project, or the project requires a high percentage local firm participation that exceeds what you can commit to and still make money on the project.
This is why a structured go/no go process is critical, even for projects that have comprehensive Capture Plans. While it is hard to pull the plug after a significant investment in research and business development, it is important to avoid spending even more money on a lost cause. In microeconomic theory this is referred to as “opportunity cost”, a concept that plays a crucial part in attempts to ensure that scarce resources are used efficiently. My mom would say it is throwing good money after bad.
Firms with the highest hit rates understand the commitment and resources required from both marketing and technical staff to submit a responsive and differentiated proposal. Scott Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM, SMPS Foundation Past-President and Vice President of JDB Engineering, reported that “the percent of time that technical staff members spend developing business has increased significantly”. In his research for a hit rate benchmarking study, he found that most firms track hit rates based on the number of proposals won vs. the number submitted. He recommends that firms instead calculate hit rate based upon dollars proposed verses dollars won. This way you can measure hit rate in terms of revenue - how well dollars proposed convert to actual bookings.
Want to learn more about how your firm can win more work without increasing your marketing budget?
DB Creative Communications specializes in developing positioning and differentiating strategies for A/E/C firms that enable them stand out in a sea of same. Deborah Briers, CPSM, MBA, Chief Content Creator and Storyteller, knows how to elevate proposals from whatever to WOW. She can transform ho-hum text into stories that make meaningful impressions. She has developed an extensive collection of marketing and business development tools that have been proven to improve proposal hit rates and promote visible leadership.