Monday, February 2, 2009

Capture development and writing business proposals that win!

This is the third in a short series of blog entries from Learn to Write Proposals examining how to write a proposal.

Capture planning is term from the US that encompasses the strategy required to win a piece of work. It's more than the strategy of creating or writing business proposals, it's the technique of managing an opportunity from the very beginning to the very end of the business development lifecycle...and then over again. Why over again? Because capture planning is often used in reference to mining accounts for work. In fact in Europe a lot of sales people are more likely to be familiar with the terminology account planning - though proposal writers will often use capture planning.

Why do you need it? After all, you built a better mousetrap, so won't people come running to your door asking for it?

We all know that it's not quite that easy. In fact you may have been in the situation where you know about an opportunity within an organisation; maybe an RFP or tender has been issued. Yet when the documentation arrives, you feel frustrated because the specification seems as if it was written for your competitor's product. And maybe it was. They could be the incumbent or the preferred bidder (even if the client organisation would never admit that!) so whatever bid or sales document you submit, you may feel not overly confident about its success.

Alternatively, they may have had a longer term strategy and plan to capture work from that account. They may have seen the organisation as a suitable target for their product and service and built up a relationship over time in order to position themselves. Statistics show that organisations with an existing relationship with a client are far more likely to win the work (don't give up hope though, it's not always the case).

So how do you go about capture planning or account management? Well, start by making a plan for each target organisation. Then find the right people in that organisation that you need to talk to - try and get a range of levels from board level down to the people that might end up using your products and services and that you are more likely to have an every day contact with.

In the Learn to Write Proposals capture plan tool we have a suggestion and question based approach to generating the account capture plan. These questions cover some basic items that you need to know about the client and the opportunities you are working on. They focus on:
  • Client assessment and background
  • External drivers for this opportunity
  • Your strengths and weaknesses
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the potential opposition
  • Your high level solution
  • Strategic value of your solution to the client
  • How does our solution differentiate itself from the competition?
  • What are our win themes?
Additionally we recommend a separate account contact plan - why separate? because most professional organisations these days will use some form of Customer Relationship Management system for managing and recording contact with client organisations. (If you want a low-cost, even free CRM for a small business check out

The account contact plan should have all your contacts for that organisation, plus show the communication strategy (dates/roles/people) with members of the client organisation as well as any important internal communication that will be required internally.

Next...a closer look at planning the proposal development and writing.