I will never forget a previous boss who had me go through the CBD every day to find proposal targets. This Vice President did not know how true is the maxim, "If you first see the program in the CBD, it is already lost." Most of the big businesses we have served have significant programs to do up-front marketing / capture work prior to release of RFP. However, many big businesses and most small businesses do not do enough up-front work. As a result, companies lose contracts that could be won with more diligent prep work.

As a result of 15-years experience, I believe there are several factors that help will companies in maximizing win rate:

  • Make a careful determination of what market niches/agencies are most profitable to chase
  • Start pursuing the contract 18 – 24 months or more before award
  • Employ a realistic bid / no-bid process, and don’t bid unless the potential gain clearly outweighs the potential risk
  • Develop in-depth knowledge of the target program. This includes developing an understanding of the positions of the following stake holders:
    • Program manager
    • Technical Lead
    • Contracting Officer
    • Members of the Source Evaluation Board (SEB)
    • Members of the Source Selection Board (SSB)
  • Learn details of the program budget
  • Become educated on the relative merits of possible technical solutions
  • Provide information that educates key customer player son your capability and the benefits of your technical solution
  • Select the best available program manager, preferably one favored by the customer, as soon as possible
  • Obtain commitments from the strongest subcontractors needed to support the solution

I recall a study I saw in the 1980s that demonstrated the importance of using the rifle rather than the shotgun in selecting bid targets. The study was based on about 800 bids prepared by my former employer, Advanced Technology Inc. (now merged with PRC). The study attempted to assess the relationship between doing up-front work on carefully selected targets and the bid win rate. The study showed that the company won 1% of the proposals submitted to new prospects without up-front work. In contrast, the company won 80% of the bids that were submitted to old customers and supported by good up-front work.

I think the discipline and cost of using the rifle shot approach to target selection is a challenge for most companies. However, the companies that grit their teeth and do it right succeed in bagging the most game.