The importance of effective capture management05/12/16
The winning of new business is key to any successful enterprise, and appropriate organisation of any business capture team is critical. Writing as a proposal manager who has seen more than his share of different organisations, I am particularly interested in what it is that other members of the capture team can do to enhance the proposal’s chance of winning. The first role I will consider is that of the capture manager.
Despite its centrality to business winning, this role is not always recognised, with the function being fragmented and diluted among the related functions of marketing and business development. In any project, capture management should be considered as representing a longer and deeper involvement in the holistic business acquisition process. It is the capture manager alone who retains a close involvement in a programme, from horizon scanning through to proposal submission, bringing direct knowledge of the client organisation and of key personalities among the decision makers. This enables one to ensure that the full customer requirement is understood and clearly briefed to the bid team, that the win themes selected are directly relevant, that the language used speaks to the customer, and that particular customer concerns and interests are addressed.
The first step in business capture is to understand and document the company’s capability and its overall intent. Is the aim going to be to grow an established business area, building on existing and acknowledged competences, or is it rather to develop business into new areas? In each case, the capture manager must understand what it is that is likely to make the company attractive to the customer. Is it established success in a different but related area that can be readily translated into a new sector, is it a fresh and innovative approach, or is it proven capability that provides a low risk way ahead? Once this is understood, then a series of basic selling messages can be developed.
Having established the areas into which the company wishes to gain entry or to expand, the capture manager must then maintain a close watch on upcoming prospects. These may be ‘roll-ons’ of existing contracts, competitions for which the company is not the incumbent, or opportunities that develop through evolving policy and changing practices. This horizon scanning is best done by maintaining regular contact with personnel at a variety of levels and in a series of different roles within the customer domain, as well as by regular attendance at industry briefings and other events.
Intelligence Gathering and Communication
Once a particular prospect has been identified, the capture manager must then gather the available information and assess the degree to which it matches the business profile that the company is seeking. Besides the context and likely scope of the prospect, one should identify key decision makers and, through meetings and discussions with them, identify their overall influence, particular areas of interest, and general opinion of the company. The aim must be to identify exactly what the customer wants and the constraints, financial or otherwise, with which one is dealing. The budget should be identified and work should start on the development of a price to win. The capture manager should be able to articulate the customer vision clearly, informing the development of the solution and ensuring that the customer has confidence in the company’s ability to deliver what is required.
Once such preliminary work has been undertaken, a communication plan can be established, tasking specific company personnel to meet with particular customer representatives. The message passed should be agreed, consistent and reviewed following each meeting, evolving it as necessary to take account of customer reaction.
Where appropriate, attempts should be made to influence the requirement to better match the company’s particular strengths. This might be the inclusion of a capability which is unique, or which might be awkward for a competitor to acquire, remembering to focus on the potential benefit to the customer, rather than on the fact that it is a USP.
The capture manager must understand the competitive landscape and ensure knowledge of the relative strengths and weaknesses of prospective competitors to help inform the qualification process. The capture manager should be seeking competitive advantage at all times – do we have a particular product, approach, record, cost base or partner that makes us uniquely appealing? This should be tested discreetly against the customer to see whether it resonates. Equally, one must be sensitive to any criticism that might prejudice a bid and devise ways of addressing these. Above all, the capture manager must maintain sufficient objectivity to judge the win chance realistically and to identify any action which can be taken to enhance it.
As part of the qualification process, detailed SWOT analyses will be undertaken, a process which should be led by the capture manager. Particular emphasis should be placed on obtaining access to personnel or staff with experience either of the competitors under consideration, or of the customer or of the particular domain. A combination of all of these is ideal. The output of the SWOT will inform the bid/no bid decision (although this will be revisited after first the PQQ and then the ITT are issued). If the decision is taken to bid, then the output should include:
- Provisional win themes;
- Any USP identified;
- Ghosting opportunities; and
- Any activities necessary to maximise PWin.
Support to the Bid Team
In my role as proposal manager, an effective capture manager will be responsible for briefing me, the project manager and the solution architect on the full background to the project. He is likely to have a particular part to play in contributing to the PQQ response and to elements of the executive summary. It is often useful to include him as a member of the pink review to ensure that the solution proposed accords with the customer’s known requirements.
Although one should still be available as a source of background knowledge, possessing, as one should, a good relationship with the customer, and domain understanding, one’s role by this stage should have been subsumed by the project manager, leaving the capture manager to focus on upcoming prospects.
Kelston Consultants Ltd
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