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How to Capture the Win

Capture management involves developing an understanding of the customer, the solution, and the competitive environment, and then turning that understanding into a plan for how to win the bid. You can never have enough information. It is like the pursuit of perfection --- impossible to achieve, but an absolute necessity to try.

This results in a classical perception problem: is the glass half-empty or half-full? When pursuing an opportunity, we collect information. We are constantly filling the glass, trying to get more and more into it. In preparing a capture plan or ultimately the proposal, we find ourselves trying to get more and more information into it, inching ever closer to that impossible to attain state of perfection. However, without realizing it, we place our focus on the wrong things. You do not win a proposal because of what you know. You lose proposals because of what you don't know.

This isn't just a trick of perception between two equal portions. If you fail to understand the customer, if you do not know something important to them, you will lose. It does not matter how much you did know. It does not matter if the glass is half-full, or 99% full. It's the portion that is missing that tells the customer want you won't be able to do for them.

Because your win strategies will be based on what you know, it's easy to focus on what you know. However, when evaluating your progress towards the completion of a capture plan or a proposal, you will be better off looking at what you don't know, then what you do know. Knowing what you don't know is the first step towards filling the gap.

Have you got the winning solution for the customer? Don't tell me what you know. Tell me what you don't know and I'll know immediately what the chances are that you've got it wrong. Do you know whether the customer likes the incumbent? If they do (or if they don't), is it because of the staff, the PM, or the company? Do you know what their preferences are? Do you know what their budget is? Do you know who the competition is? Do you know their strategies and pricing? These and many other key capture questions may be impossible to find answers to. Nonetheless, the ones that you can't answer are the ones that will determine whether you win or lose.

The next time you are evaluating a capture plan or a proposal, focus on the unanswered questions and build your action items around them. If you are evaluating a proposal, the odds are that there won't be time to answer them and you may feel doomed. However, use the feedback to make sure that future capture plans address those questions so that you will have the answers early enough in the proposal process to make proper use of them. Constantly add to the list of questions that should be answered by the Capture Manager. Then, instead of measuring their progress on how many they answer, measure they progress on how many are still unknown. It will make a difference in your ability to capture the win.

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By Carl Dickson,
Founder of and PropLIBRARY

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