The biggest problem with the transition from business development to proposal is that there is any "transition" at all. A proposal is nothing more than the closing of the sales process. It is not a separate process, but the completion of a single process.
Companies do everything they can to disrupt this single process. They bring in new management and new staff. They reassign the previous management and staff. The information collected by the business developers is often discarded or is not formatted in a way that is useful to the proposal. The two phases are managed with different goals and procedures. The business development phase is often managed as if the goal is to achieve the client's permission to submit a proposal and nothing more. The two phases are even incentivized differently. There is little or no integration between them. Business development and proposal development are treated as two different things, until they become two different, unrelated, and not integrated processes.
When you define the proposal as the closing of the sales process, then the portion of the process that occurs prior to RFP release should be aimed at preparing for a successful close. To do this, you need to define what is required for a proposal to win and manage pre-RFP activity to deliver it.
Some of the things required for a proposal to win include:
- A positive client relationship
- Proper positioning of the company and offering
- An offering that better reflects what the customer wants than the competitions' offerings
- Customer and opportunity intelligence that enable you to understand the client's preferences and write a winning proposal
- Competitive intelligence that enables you to outmaneuver the competition
- A top evaluation score
- A price that is perceived as the best value
One excellent way to approach designing this process is to build it around the questions that you need to answer. For example, you can target your customer, opportunity, and competitive intelligence gathering efforts at the questions you need answers to in order to successfully close the sale with a winning proposal.
This does not mean that the proposal phase of activity directs the business development phase. The proposal is only part of what is needed for the sale to successfully close. The process should be designed and implemented from a perspective that integrates or is above both the business development and proposal activities.
That is why assigning a Capture Manager, in addition to a Business Development Manager and a Proposal Manager, is a best practice. A Business Development Manager typically pursues a portfolio of opportunities. A Proposal Manager is focused on preparing a winning document. The Capture Manager fulfills the need for someone dedicated to the pursuit of the opportunity who can integrate the Business Development and Proposal activities.
A Capture Manager can ensure that the way intelligence is gathered flows into a winning close to the sales process. A Capture Manager is the glue that binds the two parts into a single whole. For this to work, the Capture Manager must be involved once the lead is qualified to help the business development efforts work towards setting the stage for a winning proposal. This means gathering the right information for a winning proposal and doing all the things (other than the proposal itself) that are necessary for a successful close to the sale.