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  • 6 Capture Goals Impacted By How RFP Release Changes Your Customer Relationship

    If you’re used to dealing with a mild-mannered, sometimes talkative Contract Officer (CO) who believes in Santa Claus and loves apple pie before RFP release, then you may be in for an enormous, personally unsettling change of behavior on the CO’s part when the RFP is released. The reason for this abrupt change of behavior may escape you, but you’re not dreaming. Something really did happen to cause the change… the RFP was released.

    RFPs with formal evaluation procedures usually regulate how the CO interacts with vendors once the RFP is released. This is certainly true in government procurements. In commercial procurements it depends on how formalized their procedures are. The rules are intended to ensure that bids remain fair, open, and competitive by ensuring that all vendors receive the same communications.  This often ends up meaning that they will basically no longer communicate with you at all, except in writing.

    Here are some things to consider as you approach RFP release to help prepare you for when “The Change” strikes and complicates your Pre-Proposal efforts and impedes your capture goals. The chart below focuses on goals that capture managers typically have regarding their customer contacts. The goals are divided into six recognizable categories with sub-goals to assist in understanding behavioral reactions brought on by “The Change.” The “Before” and “After” columns show how your tactics may need to be different before and after the RFP is released.

    Before RFP Release
    After RFP Release
    To help the customer define their technical requirements, assess alternatives, get an RFP written, and understand and execute the procurement process.
    • Persuade them into brainstorming mode.
    • Make suggestions for how to approach the procurement.
    • You are limited to submitting written questions.
    • The CO responds by distributing all questions submitted and all answers provided to all offerors.
    • When possible, your questions should be prepared to lead the CO to your desired response.
    To understand their plans and goals, their procurement processes, and their preferences.
    • Discuss what they are trying to accomplish.
    • Try to determine why they're taking a certain approach.
    • Make substantive suggestions from an "objective" point of view.
    • You are limited to reading about their goals in the RFP.
    • You can submit questions in writing, but only if they're valid and important enough to ask.
    • Remember, if you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question.
    To identify the decision makers and who are involved in the procurement, especially the evaluators. Also, to identify how they fit into the customer’s organization.
    • In your frequent customer interactions, ask questions in a direct and helpful manner.
    • Keep in mind that your normal customer contacts may not be the evaluators of your proposal.
    • Visit identified decision makers, and endeavor to see if they will identify other decision makers.
    • If you know the decision makers, craft your proposal to be compliant with the RFP plus meet their needs, wants, and "Hot Buttons."
    • If you don't know who they are, be as compliant with the RFP as possible.
    Assess the competitive environment and determine what other companies already do business with the customer in similar areas, what other companies may have influenced the procurement, the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, and which are competitors and which are potential teaming partners.
    • Ensure that your Customer Contact Plan remains active at all times with everyone on your team asking plenty of questions of the customer. You'll be astonished at what you can discover.
    • Be observant so that you can spot a competitor in the customer's office, and try to determine who they might be speaking with or frequently visit. If this happens, that customer point of contact needs lots of your best support right away.
    • Ask for a list of interested bidders.
    • Go back and review an attendance list for "Industry Day", the "Bidders Conference", etc.
    • If you've got nothing else to go on, search "on-line" resources for information on incumbents and their teammates, or anything else of value.
    • Answers to questions that you didn't submit may hold lots of helpful information.
    To introduce yourself. While you want the customer to recognize you later, you want to be perceived as an asset to them, and not a drain on their time.
    • Remember the procurement is about them, and not about you. So be supportive, well informed, and sincere when asking questions of them.
    • Even if the purpose for a meeting is an initial introduction, make the most of it -- you may not get another chance.
    • There isn’t a whole lot you can accomplish now by way of introductions.
    • Remember "The Change" has occurred, and if you ask a question, do not unnecessarily reveal your company identity or that of your teammates since that might damage your reputation or help the competition.
    To influence the procurement, and recommend procurement strategies, RFP requirements, evaluation criteria, and/or small business utilization requirements.
    • If you receive a draft RFP(s) for review and comment, make absolutely sure that you provide an excellent team response. This may be your only time to shape requirements to favor your solution.
    • With or without a draft RFP, use every opportunity to assess your team's presumptions and beliefs regarding the customer's acquisition. This is the time to make corrections in your Capture Plan.
    • It's probably too late.
    • However, remain alert and never let your guard down. There may be that “one in a million” chance where a crucial question by you or an answer to a competitor's question could turn the tide in your favor.

    We hope that these suggestions prove helpful to you, and that “The Change” never visits your proposal room.

    Carl Dickson
    By Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

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