A couple of key challenges have emerged in the government contracting industry. The market for government contracts has become more competitive. At the same time, win rates are shrinking. Three-quarters of government contract firms said their win rate was 50% or less.
However, the government contracting market does offer significant opportunities for growth. In 2020, for example, the US government awarded almost $700 billion worth of federal government contracts. How can organizations tap into this opportunity? Some firms will say it’s all about writing a killer proposal. And yes, your proposal will need to be compelling. But the hard work needs to begin way before the proposal writing starts.
“The fix [for a sagging win rate] will probably be found in a structured approach to business development in general and pursuit processes in particular,” according to the authors of the 2021 GAUGE Report. However, just over half (55%) of companies say they have a formal capture management system in place.
What is capture management?
Capture management, or capture planning, is about developing a system for winning future request for proposal (RFP) opportunities. It involves pulling together all relevant data, developing useful connections and gathering competitive insights. With all of this information, you can better connect with customers, identify their requirements and showcase your organization as the ideal partner. Crucially, all of this work happens before the RFP arrives.
Many government organizations may already know who they would like to work with before they receive proposals. In fact, this figure could be as high as 80%, according to Larry Newman, author of Shipley Capture Guide,
“Most sales and marketing veterans agree that 40% to 80% of the time, customers decide whom they would prefer to buy from before proposals are submitted.”
The aim of capture planning is to position the customer to prefer your organization and your solution to the exclusion of competitors, or to at least prefer to do business with your organization prior to proposals being submitted.
Although not part of the proposal process, capture management does in fact do a lot of the heavy lifting. If done right, the capture management process elevates you from an unknown entity to a preferred solution. In this way, it can dramatically increase your win rate potential.
What is the capture management process?
So how does capture planning work? Like any process, it should follow a set of intuitive steps. Remember, the objective is to win more business. To that end, capture management focuses on weeding out opportunities that are not a good fit for your business. It will also help to distill the many opportunities out there into realistic or winnable contracts. Here are the key steps in any capture management process:
- Research potential prospects and identify their objectives and requirements
- Figure out if the opportunity is a good fit for your business
- Develop a capture plan and create a framework that matches your solution with the customer’s needs
- Assess potential competitors and see how they compare to your organization
- Devise a pricing structure for your solution and create a win strategy
- Meet with the customer and showcase your solution
What are the benefits of capture management?
Organizations that understand their customer’s needs and goals are more likely to win new government business. Those who fail to understand what their customer needs are less likely to win their business. Effective capture management is often the difference between winning and losing new government contracts. Capture management can:
- Help you to win more business from fewer, better-qualified prospects
- Make easier bid/no bid decisions and boost your overall win rate with detailed research and relationship building
- Help you to write more focused proposals, provide insights into competitive offerings and assess potential risks
- Reduce proposal writing costs by focusing on more realistic bids and guide your pricing based on competitive insights
- Develop a pipeline with better potential build a strong win strategy and enhance customer relationships
What is a capture manager?
Typically a capture manager will handle the capture management process. They will be responsible for creating the foundations for your higher win rate. The role of a capture manager spans multiple departments – sales, products, business development and proposals. Large organizations will likely have a dedicated capture manager role. In smaller organizations, the proposal manager or business development manager will assume the capture manager role.
In simple terms, a capture manager will identify business opportunities and create a strategy to win this new business.
To do this, they will need a deep understanding of your business and solutions, the customer’s objectives, challenges and needs.
For your business to continue to grow you need an opportunity pipeline. This is a list of relevant and qualified new business prospects. A good capture manager will identify prospects for the pipeline, and nurture the most realistic opportunities. They will base their data on market research, competitor analysis, building customer connections, and understanding how your organization is ideally placed to solve specific customer challenges.
Spanning multiple departments, the capture manager role is challenging, with a great deal of responsibility. Ultimately, they are responsible for aligning business growth with your corporate strategic plan.
What are the challenges facing a capture manager?
The capture management process isn’t a quick win. Building up a solid opportunities pipeline, nurturing connections and fine-tuning a successful win strategy takes time. The capture manager role is a challenging one. It requires someone who can manage time and people, and be able to consume huge volumes of data. Let’s look at some of the challenges a capture manager faces.
- They will need to be proficient in many areas. Product development, sales, customer relations, risk assessment, strategic development, and project management. Capture manager is a role of many roles.
- They will need to analyze huge volumes of data. They will have to wade through a lot of clutter to identify the best prospects.
- They will need to understand how to position their win strategies in each proposal.
- They will need to understand government contract policies, so they can best position your organization to win.
- They will need to work across many departments and develop relationships with key personnel.
What should be in a capture plan?
A capture plan lays out the steps toward winning more government contracts. It should be clear and concise. This plan needs to be accessible to all the main stakeholders. It will also need to be aligned with your organization’s objectives. Here are some of the elements a capture manager will include in a capture plan.
- Highlight the customer’s challenges or pain points, needs and objectives
- Identify key influencers in the customer’s organization and summarize any previous relationships or interactions
- Use a RACI matrix to map out key roles for the win team and proposal team and work out the resources they will need to execute their plan
- Assess the market and economic trends that could be relevant including potential competitors using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis
- Research proposal win themes and include relevant solution planning, design and any related RFP documents
How can VT Docs help the capture manager and streamline the capture management process?
Efficient capture management will streamline your organization’s approach to government contracts. It will also lead to higher win rates. But capture management can be an overwhelming process. It involves massive volumes of data and correspondence. This is where VT Docs can be a key ally. With its AI-assisted decision-making engine, it complements the capture manager role. Here are some of the ways VT Docs can help simplify the capture management process:
- Make data-driven decisions, faster
- Analyze past performance to make more informed and faster bid decisions
- Help analyze teaming partner capabilities
- Speed up manual tasks, including shredding, checking acronyms and identifying themes
- Better identify potential win themes
- Link previous proposals to current pursuits
An effective capture manager and a solid capture management process can help differentiate any organization from its competitors. In the incredibly competitive world of government contracts, it could be the difference between succeeding and failing.