Business Development Blog

Gratitude for our veterans and food for thought

I spent about 7 years in the infantry, 5.5 years with the 82nd Airborne Division, and 27 months in Afghanistan. This Veterans Day, I want to encourage everyone to work more with veterans and understand the unique skills they bring to business development. Veterans often struggle with transitioning back into the civilian workforce, like I did when I first exited the Army. They often find it hard to translate their valuable experience from their time in the military into the business environment. Yet, many of the skills that our highly trained military personnel have picked up in the field translate very well into the office environment.

Ready Up: Making the Most of Your Time Before the Next Potential Government Shutdown

We need to get prepared to sprint until the next crisis and potential shutdown that is just around the corner. In the business development world, now is the best time to get in contact with your government customers. Fit in your capture activities while you can. This stop-and-go, strapped-for-resources type of environment could end up being the new normal for a while. Whether we replay this fiasco all over again in a couple months remains to be seen, but that has been the trend as of late. Regardless, we must go on and serve our customers as if the politicians will work things out between themselves.

Preparing for the Next Storm

As we look at the headlines (“Government reopens,” “Ok. Back to Work,” “Striking a D.C. Deal,” “Backing away from the brink,” etc.), we see a general sense of apathy in the writing and with those working in the government sector. Is it because everyone that has been in the federal contracting business believes that this was just another bump in the road? Or, is it because we realize we have likely only bought ourselves a short interval of peace? In either case, many see today as a return to heavy traffic, and back to the attempt of business as usual.

The Number One Goal of Capture

The most important goal of capture is to stack the deck in your favor. For now, forget about proving you are the best among the most awesome competitors by writing a winning proposal. Let’s think about how you can reduce the number of competitors from the outset or even better, how you can avoid the competition and get a sole source award where you don’t even have to write a competitive proposal.

The Day You Stop Wanting to Be Better is the Day You Stop Being Good

The interesting thing about fighter pilots is that only ten percent of the top one percent of all pilots get to fly fighter jets. When someone like Bill says that even elite pilots fall into the complacency trap, it’s a powerful message. Although Bill writes about fighter pilots and business in general, what he says also applies to proposal professionals. It is too easy to become content with one’s current knowledge and disinterested in investing the hard work and training necessary for continued growth.

Influence the RFP by Shaping the Requirements

The best of the best of government contractors shape the requirements in the RFP to raise their win probability. They wire the contracts to themselves early on, and seal the deal with the perfect proposal. Wiring seems like something negative, but unless you are violating the procurement integrity laws, there is nothing unseemly or unethical in doing this, just good business for Beltway insiders. The good news is that you can wire the contracts to yourself as well.

Proposal Color Reviews Expectations: Pink Team

Traditional proposal management employs a color review process. This series of articles will explore how the reviews figure in the whole proposal management process, and explore the expectations for each review type. After all, it is not the color of the review ...

Proposal Writing Planning Phase and Reviews

Proposal planning begins prior to the kickoff, with the development of an outline. You have two options when planning an outline: 1. Develop a regular outline then use storyboards to think in a structured way through the sections 2. Develop an annotated outline with a proposal manager (perhaps with additional help from subject matter experts (SME)) providing guidance to the writers for the sections After the kickoff meeting, people don’t really get to jump into writing right away. Instead, they should think first about what they are going to say, entering the brainstorming and research phase. This is where the authors make decisions on the final solution, come up with details, and find facts. Brainstorming can be done individually or in small groups.

Bad Things Proposal Professionals Do

I have to fess up, these days I've been embracing bad behavior in the midst of working long hours to keep the fun alive. It’s so much more interesting than being boring and conventional, or just trudging through the day.

How to Build an Opportunities Pipeline with High-Probability Bids

Every business needs a pipeline, which is essentially a list of all the opportunities you are chasing, with their associated values, dates when they are going to be released and awarded, all the key information about each opportunity, metrics to see how well you are progressing with the pursuit, and a variety of other information that will help you track these opportunities better and increase your probability of winning them. You can start your pipeline as a spreadsheet, and as it grows, you might want to select an appropriate pipeline tool. For example, you could establish a pipeline in Microsoft SharePoint 360, Privia, Salesforce, or Central Desktop.

My (Almost) Graceful Skydiving Experience

Skydiving was never on my bucket list. My reaction to my friends proudly handing me a gift certificate surprised them—I asked them what possessed them to pick a gift like that. Were they tired of me? To which they argued it seemed like a great idea, since last year I rode a rollercoaster for the first time and even did aerobatics in a military jet. Somehow I am starting to get a reputation. It didn’t click in my head that shooting machine guns, defensive driving, tree climbing, hostage rescue training, racing Jaguars, and doing barrel rolls in a plane made me seem like a daredevil, an obvious candidate for one half of a plane ride.

The Weapon of Seasoned Government Contractors: Capture Planning

Government contractors who know how to play the game pay a lot of attention to pre-proposal preparation work and other activities aimed at raising your win probability, called capture. Essentially, capture is the equivalent of presales for commercial companies that deal with complex sales, albeit even more regimented. Complex sales is when you have to go beyond a handshake and a contract, have to position to win ahead of an RFP issuance, and then write a fairly complex proposal. The concept is old, but the term capture is relatively new, having gained recognition as a full-blown profession since the 1990s.

Make These Three Shifts to Become a Better Proposal Writer

If the trickiest part of proposals was the process of preparing a compliant document with text and multiple graphics for submission, winning would be a lot easier. In the end, answering every requirement may prevent a proposal from being thrown out, but getting the win themes and subject matter expertise captured in hard-hitting text that speaks straight to the customer's needs is what makes a winning difference. That winning prose is hard to produce. It takes a lot of time and effort and it causes prolonged suffering to everyone involved. Unfortunately, most pursuits do not get blessed with Stephen King-like engineers who can bang out several sections in a day, and they have limited budgets that don't allow hiring a band of consultants. So, how can you get your team to write well? It is an uphill battle. Authors usually face time limitations due to juggling their "day" jobs with proposal assignments. They also suffer from lack of confidence in their writing skills, writer's block, procrastination, lack of exposure to basic writing tools and techniques, and bad habits such as indiscriminate reuse of old proposal text. Many people in technical professions seem to have the holy fear of writing the same way some non-technical people dread math. The trouble is that proposal managers' common bag of tricks with annotated outlines, requirements-filled storyboards, and threats to enforce deadlines does just the opposite of getting people to free up their time and get their creativity flowing. Motivation, creativity, and inspiration originate from the place opposite of linear thinking, forms, and threats. This is why storyboards are scarcely useful and often get abandoned after their review, when the "real writing" starts. Storyboards actually come from the movie industry, and they are based on the script that is already written. This tool was not created for people who do not yet know what to write. Paradoxically, just starting to write or issuing section assignments without instructions leads to an even worse output than using storyboards. It is often a difficult and tricky leap a proposal makes from storyboards to a good first draft.

Proposal Management: How Did We Get There? Where Are We Going? How Are We Going to Get There?

Proposal management has made great strides as a profession in the last decade. It is easy to forget the laments we had a few years ago about some company leaders thinking of proposals as an administrative job. Once in a while we get a reminder, though: when I attended the 2013 APMP International Bid & Proposal Con Chapter Officers Workshop, a woman from Egypt erupted into a passionate speech about the plot of proposal professionals in the Middle East where companies still believe them to be glorified admins, while truthfully they are the lifeblood and the growth engine of an organization.

The Tools and Techniques for Establishing Federal Government Relationships

Customer engagement is the cornerstone of capture, and yet many government contractors miss out on building customer intimacy and all of its perks. They either start too late in the game, or are in touch with only one or two people who may not be the decision makers or who won’t talk to them, or wait until the industry day to find out who the customer is—when it’s way too late to influence acquisition strategy and other important facets of a procurement. Luckily, there are numerous professional tools out there to help capture managers figure out who the customer is early, and navigate customer organizations like a pro.

“Picasso Method” for Proposal Graphics That Work

Picasso’s famous quote, “Good artists copy; great artists steal,” might as well have been about proposal art. Great proposal graphics can be born in various ways, but “stealing” a concept and making it something that is your own, something completely different from its original version and uniquely applicable to the current bid, is the fastest way to create them.