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The Capture Process: 8 Best Practices to Evaluate Winnable Business


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This blog was originally featured on our website, It is based on a presentation that Privia's President & CEO Glenn Giles gives on a regular basis about capture management best practices. Mr. Giles has several decades of experience in the industry. As a Capture Manager with Waypoint LLC he had a 100% win rate. Before Waypoint he served as COO of the District of Columbia under Mayor Anthony Williams.

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The Capture Process: 8 Best Practices to Evaluate Winnable Business

  1. 1. The Capture Process: 8 Best Practices to Evaluate Winnable BusinessBy Glenn Giles, President and CEO, PriviaThis is a blog post written based on a presentation I have given frequently, most recently as a webinarwhich is available at It outlines the thingsorganization should be doing to improve their capture methods. My years in the industry have led me towitness some very bad habits that occur all too often but are easily correctable.Right now were seeing three major trends in the market: 1. Between federal and state/local governments, agencies are spending approximately $10 trillion. 2. There are 32,000+ GSA suppliers, thus increasing competition for contracts. 3. The federal government is moving toward more Multiple Award Contracts (MACs) because agencies feel that they get the best value through the task order process. Task orders are less protestable than full and open procurements, and the use of them creates "supplier lists" that agencies can go to in the future.There is a lot of uncertainty right now in government contracting because of three major things: The ongoing budget resolution The threat of sequestration and The possibility of Israel attacking Iranall make for instability in the federal government. This uncertainty is causing many organizations to filltheir pipelines as much as possible. Yet this is the opposite of what executives should be doing rightnow, a point we will get back to later.Interestingly, the uncertainty has not caused a significant decrease in professional services spendingbecause there is still a need for the services that consultants can perform. Were seeing this trendbecause agencies do not have the budget to add personnel, but they still have work that must be done.Its more cost effective to hire professional services, since organizations can pay them for the shortperiod of time that they are needed.A sound capture process is the key to winning any opportunity. There are three basic steps to theprocess: 1. Identification: Build your pipeline with opportunities that you can realistically go after.
  2. 2. 2. Pursuit: Perform competitive analysis, dredge up your past performance, and outline how your organization can fulfill the requirements. 3. Capture: Finally, you respond to the RFP, RFI, etc.The biggest issue most organizations face is that they either a) dont have a sound capture process or b)they dont follow the capture process in a consistent manner. That is why I advocate a process that isguaranteed to succeed. These steps are straightforward, but proposal teams often forget to followthem. 8 KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL CAPTURE1. Optimize Your PipelineI was speaking recently to a CEO about sequestration and he mentioned that he was filling up hispipeline with as many opportunities as possible. My only response to him was “Why?” That is theopposite of what you should be doing! You should focus solely on the realistic opportunities, ones youthink you have a real chance of winning. You can waste a lot of time and money on capture when thedecision should have been a no-go from the start. An executive should review the pipeline on a regularbasis and challenge everything in it. Its not easy but is important and will pay off in the long run.Keep in mind that padding your pipeline with opportunities you know you cant win makes it harder tobe realistic about other aspects of the organization. It will skew your budget, your sales team, and yourallocation of resources. Of course it’s fine to have some stretch goals as these help the organizationgrow by forcing your team to innovate.2. Establish a Relationship Between IT & BDWhen I meet with a customer, one of the first things I ask is whether or not their proposal teams have aservice level agreement (SLA) with the IT department. In the past three years, I have not met a proposalmanager who answered “yes”. Proposal teams must have a relationship with IT that has establishedterms. This is especially important when it comes to task orders, which can have turn-around times asshort as seven days. If there is ever an outage in any system, IT is going to be the department thataddresses and meets the needs of the BD team. With the compressed time constraints of a proposal,you want to make sure that your IT organization is ready and positioned to support your team.The goals of IT and BD are diametrically opposed and this can pose a problem. IT wants to centralizeeverything it can in order to improve efficiencies and lower costs. BD wants to generate revenue, whichcan be hindered by ITs desire to lower costs. Its actually in ITs best interest to give BD the tools andsupport they need to win, because higher revenue translates into bigger budgets for every departmentin the organization.3. Define Roles of Capture and Proposal Managers
  3. 3. Ive seen organizations establish roles in a variety of ways. Sometimes the proposal manager reports tothe capture manager, and sometimes they are peers who share responsibilities. Generally the structureis based on the experience and skills of each person. Its important to establish who is in charge of whatand whom. A lack of clear definition of responsibilities leads to confusion and uncertainty; othermembers of the team start asking, "Who owns what? Whos in control?" Your organization might havemore than one answer to the capture v. proposal manager question but no matter what, make surethere is an answer and everyone knows what it is.4. Proposal Manager or Coordinator?Proposal managers and coordinators are different roles and its important to decide which one youneed. The role of a proposal manager is to be involved in every step of the process and really managethe writing, editing, and production. They have the power to approve or decline volumes and theymicromanage everyone else on the team. The role of a proposal coordinator, in contrast, is mostly tocoordinate scheduling and production. They step in to make sure everyone is doing their job on timeand that everything gets put together properly. The important thing for an organization to do is decidewho they want in charge and what role they want them to take.A really good proposal manager will be costly but worth the money; you get what you pay for in thiscase. A proposal manager is not an area where an organization should be trying to cut costs as this rolecan be the difference between a win and a loss.If you decide to bring in a proposal manager from the outside you need to let them manage the process.By "you" I mean members of the executive team and the proposal team. An independent proposalmanager comes in to oversee the process; they are not there to make friends with the team. There is areason you chose this person to come in and manage your proposal effort, so follow their process andlisten to what they have to say. It will pay off in the end.5. Manage Executive InvolvementThe pattern I tend to see in organizations is that executives are not involved until the end of the process,when they become heavily invested in the proposal and thus create more risk. When they are involvedlate in the game, they are more likely to want to change volumes, win themes, and graphics - the thingsthat are incredibly time consuming to change and could lead to missing the deadline, or delivering aproposal that is not agreed upon by both the proposal manager/coordinator and the executives. Yoursuccess is predicated on managing your executives during an opportunity. Get them involved early. Bythe time youve made it to the final draft, management involvement should decline. This lowers the riskof having to make major changes as the deadline approaches. If the capture and proposal managers areon track and report to management regularly, they shouldn’t feel the need to get involved as often.6. Know How to TriageOnce the final RFP is released, all of your efforts leading up to that point are going to need to be re-evaluated to make sure that your strategy, win themes, outline, content plans and graphics are aligned
  4. 4. with the final requirements. Before anyone starts writing, your team needs to sit down and decide ifyour win themes and strategies are still applicable, if there is anything new that will change thestructure of the proposal, and whether or not you need to modify graphics. Assess everything you havedone so far and compare it to the new RFP in case there are any changes; this decreases the likelihoodthat any member of your team will waste time on non-compliant work.7. Graphics, Graphics, Graphics!After the win themes, graphics are the most important component in scoring. Proposals are scoredmore than they are read. Agencies will perform an initial review of the proposal for compliance beforethey read the sections in detail, and the first thing they notice is graphics and the captions that go alongwith them. A study by the University of Minnesota found that the human brain can register andunderstand a graphic up to 60,000 times faster than written words. Graphics will greatly increase yourchance of getting your message across the first time an agency views your proposal.There should be at least one graphic per page, if not more. There are so many options for graphics aswell, including charts, photos, computer-generated images, and infographics. Infographics are especiallyhelpful because they combine images with facts in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and informative(hence the term, info-graphic). Its important to have a large repository of graphics also; its likely youwill recycle them for different proposals so it helps to keep them in one place.8. Manage Color Team ReviewersExternal reviewers can be tremendously helpful but they rarely read the requirements. Reviewers withpast agency experience can be especially difficult to work with, since they believe they already knowwhat the customer wants even if their opinion differentiates from what is in the requirements. Theytend to forget that the requirements are there for a reason. The best thing you can do is be anal aboutproactively preparing your color team. Theres no such thing as too much preparation. Here is theprocess that I have found is the most successful: 1. Two weeks beforehand, start by giving an introductory presentation to the review team. This can be done as an online meeting if getting together in person is difficult. You can also send them a Powerpoint presentation and then schedule a conference call for further explanation. 2. Once they know what the requirements are, send the reviewers sections C, L, and M. After youve given them a day or two to look over the requirements verbatim, follow up and make sure they looked at them and understand them. 3. Last, send the kick-off deck you used for your proposal team to the reviewers. This gets them in-the-know about your process, win themes, and strategies.Every color team needs to have a full understanding of an opportunity in order to be effective reviewers.Keep track of the reviewers you use; build a past performance for your teams so you know ahead oftime who reads the requirements, who is helpful, who is ineffective, etc. Having individual past
  5. 5. performances will help you put together great teams for the future. When you actually have your teamtogether, make sure the reviewers stay in their own swim lanes. Reviewers may have a tendency to tryto review other volumes they are not assigned to because they have the experience; make sure yourproposal manager reminds them that they were chosen to review certain volumes for a reason.Also remember to treat pricing as its own review; do not try to run it at the same time you do volumereviews. Find different reviewers to do your pricing, specifically people who are qualified to do it.These 8 points may seem obvious but I cant tell you how often I see organizations not followthem and fail to get a win. The best thing you can do to ensure success is discover what worksand what doesnt, create a repeatable process, and stick with it. For more information on thecapture process you can watch my webinar version of the presentation here. Reach out to usvia email or through our various social media outlets if you have further questions.