The Importance of Capture

Findings from BPC Orlando 2023

At the 2023 Bid and Proposal Conference, 150 proposal professionals were polled on the question: “What percent of your Capture is usually complete by the time of an RFP?” Interestingly, but unsurprising, the majority of respondents claimed that 25% or less was the norm. Why is this? And what can be done to improve this? Let’s see if we cannot be part of this statistic.

First, let’s identify what Capture is. This is the part in the Business Development Lifecycle where an opportunity has been identified, preliminary research has been conducted on it, and the team has chosen to move forward in preparing a solution and, hopefully, a compelling proposal response. There may be a few kinks to work out still, but as we know, bids and proposals wait for no person! A typical Capture Phase is at least 30-60 days in advance of the RFP drop but can be longer depending on the size and scope of the bid.

The Capture Manager’s role and responsibility is to take the initial data provided by Business Development/Account Leads and begin to build an internal team of experts to start to strategize and solution a response. They pull from program teams, technical experts, proposal staff, recruiting, contracts, and pricing, to begin to schedule working sessions for everyone to get up to speed. They also must build the external team if subcontractor support is necessary. There are many different moving parts. The Capture Manager is in the lead, orchestrating all activities and people while also analyzing the competitive landscape.

Many artifacts are developed within this phase of the lifecycle. The transition from Opportunity Identification/Research to Capture should produce an initial draft of a Capture Plan that is updated and maintained throughout this phase and handed off to the Proposal Manager, writers, and reviewers prior to solicitation release. A high-level solution is expected to be developed and matured over the coming weeks. An initial pricing model should be outlined and reviewed with the key stakeholders of the deal. And lastly, the participants of the live proposal should be identified and trained on all aspects and expectations of the bid.

Now that we have outlined these things, we can begin to see the cracks in our foundation. What areas are we struggling in? What areas are we skipping entirely? And what are the consequences of these actions?

Let’s break it down. A solid Capture Plan is front and center. This artifact should include, at a minimum:

  • Opportunity Information
  • A detailed call plan and customer information
  • A solicitation roadmap or pre-proposal calendar
  • The WHY US of the company to include:
    • Themes
    • Strengths
    • Weaknesses
    • Discriminators, proof points, and metrics
    • Past Performance
    • Key Personnel
  • Competitive Intelligence
  • Solution Overview

The reason this is a living document is that much of this information takes time to collect and build out. But when done appropriately, this artifact is of great importance and help to the proposal team as they train the team on all of these elements and work to ensure our response is compliant and compelling.

A high-level solution must be developed. We say “high-level” because we don’t know what the final requirements will look like, so we start with what we know. This is also matured throughout the Capture phase as new information is uncovered and the team begins to gel. These activities can produce a separate artifact or be built into the master Capture Plan; the main point is to document them for smoother integration into the final proposal.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost a deal on price. (All hands go up). Even if you don’t have the final solicitation, it is not an invitation to sit and twiddle your thumbs on your pricing approach. This is as much of a “solutioning” session as your technical volume performs. Have the conversations. Dig up dollars, previous information about the customer, and any possible incumbents/competitors. No one is asking you to build a perfect Excel workbook at this stage but don’t let these activities fall to the wayside and become 11th-hour goals.

Building out your proposal team may seem like a pre-mature activity at this stage of the game, but I assure you it’s not. The sooner you can have a proposal manager shadowing the deal, the better equipped they will be to support the transfer of information from Capture to the final proposal. The same can be said for the writers and reviewers. The sooner you can engage them in the opportunity and understanding our approach to winning, the better quality they will be able to provide in their assignments. Sounds like common sense, right?

“For every action, there is a reaction.” I think someone said that once.

In this case, your INACTION will cause the reaction or consequence. And the consequences are costly in the form of lost business (and poor morale). Think of it like a domino effect. When one key element is skipped, everyone involved suffers to some degree, and it is reflected in the final proposal response. Half-baked solutions and approaches. Lack of customer intimacy and understanding. Non-competitive pricing models. Writers who aren’t clear on the Why Us. Reviewers who add no value. And a Proposal Manager trying to glue the broken bits together. No one feels good in this situation which leads to poor communication, high stress, low morale, and burnout.

What I penned to you above is not MY interpretation. This is industry standard (simplified) and might have sounded familiar or “normal” to you. So what gives then? Why aren’t we doing these things? Well, there was another poll performed where 45 people responded to the question, “What is the biggest challenge in getting people to become effective proposal participants?” I have provided those results below but will save that for another article. 😊

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