Most companies use whatever reports their spreadsheet or database spits out as the basis for how they track their leads. Their Business Development meetings are often an exercise in going down the rows of the report and reading across. They throw in a little commentary and occasionally assign an action item. All in all they are not very effective. People include opportunities that shouldn't be there, just so their report looks "full." The real status isn't clear. It's easy to hide and emphasize what you want. Companies continue to bid every opportunity they see, rather than be selective. People continue to use FedBizOpps, Input, or Federal Sources as the only places they get leads from.
Better reports can enable better oversight and lead to more business. Try thinking about it this way: Why do we have the reports in the first place? The reports we have should answer the key questions needed to manage the pipeline. These questions include:
- Are we going to hit our revenue target? The answer to this is determined by multiplying our win rate by what's in our pipeline and any new leads we've added. The best report format is a chart that shows this visually. A chart with two bars will do this: one for the target and one that includes the existing pursuits and the new leads. If the second bar is lower than the first, you've got some work to do, and management should be asking what you are doing to identify new leads. If the second bar is taller than the first, you are ahead of the game and congratulations are in order.
- Is our pipeline healthy? Next, take a look at what is in your pipeline. We recommend breaking the opportunities down by pipeline phase (In the CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process we hold a Readiness Review at the end of each phase). You might also want to look at it from a calendar perspective. Typically, this is the only perspective companies use. They focus almost exclusively on how many submissions are expected in each quarter. While this is necessary for calendar-based financial projections, it doesn't help you make sure that you are preparing to win those opportunities. If you really want to see the health of your pipeline, you also need to see it by Readiness Review to see how many opportunities you have at each stage, so that you determine whether what's in your pipeline is mature and you are positioning properly to win.
- Are our pursuits on track? After looking at the pipeline charts, you should look at the status of individual pursuits. Most companies treat this as a subjective exercise, and many simply ask "what's new?" for each opportunity. We highly recommend that you identify specific goals for each phase so that you can compare opportunity status against the goals. The CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process provides specific questions that should be answered and action items to be completed in each phase in order to ensure that the company is prepared to win the bid when the RFP is released.
- Are we winning? The next chart to consider is another stacked bar chart. The first column is for the submission target, broken down by expected wins and losses based on your anticipated win rate. The second column is a stacked bar with a row for each submission, adding up to the total value of submissions. It shows whether your submissions have reached the target. The third column is a stacked bar with a row for each win. Even if you reach your target number of submissions, this may not result in enough business if your win rate slips. Using stacked bars also lets you see if the mix of big vs. small opportunities is healthy. Collectively they show whether your submissions and opportunities won meet your targets.
Keep in mind that with all of the reports/charts mentioned above, you can (and should) look at the data two ways — the number of opportunities and the value of the opportunities. Dollar values can be misleading when there is one big opportunity and a bunch of little ones. Or you might appear to be hitting your numbers, but because it is with just a few large opportunities in the pipeline, a loss or two can be devastating.
The right reports, presented using the right visuals, will make the health of your business development activities apparent. Good reports will also facilitate oversight, which will in turn lead to better preparation and ultimately higher win rates.