You have exhausted all your contacts and digested all your databases to create a business development pipeline that:
- Lists re-competes for current contracts,
- Identifies opportunities to introduce new services to current customers, and
- Focuses on expansion to new customers in line with current service offerings.
Then, you create the mandatory pipeline overview PowerPoint. Now it is time to kick back with a well-deserved cup of coffee and wait for the contracts to roll in. If only it was that easy. Now that you have identified your opportunities, you must determine their viability in at least two ways: availability of capture funding and probability of win (pWin). Every company has a limited amount of resources to expend on business development activities. Your responsibility is to dedicate the lion’s share of your time pursuing opportunities that are likely to be funded and that you can realistically win.
A word of caution to those tempted to employ the “short-barrel shotgun” approach (running full capture activities on every identified opportunity). I call it the “short-barrel” approach because it is short-sighted. If you have the resources to run capture on every identified opportunity, you are either the most efficient business development professional in the world or making one of two terrible mistakes. The first mistake is not casting your opportunity net wide enough. In order to grow, you need stretch goals that will require you to look at strategically aligned opportunities that push you outside your current offerings or customers or both. Failure to do this will result in stagnation and catastrophic failure due to lack of market adaptation.
The second mistake is casting your capture net too wide. Without validating the opportunities in your pipeline, you wastefully expend valuable resources chasing opportunities you never had a chance of winning. Alternatively, if you do win a significant number of opportunities under this approach (without an appropriately corresponding business scaling plan) there is a high probability that contract execution will be substandard and damage your company’s reputation with the customer.
How, then, do you validate your business development pipeline? I suggest answering a few simple questions with information gained from the customer as well as internal assessments of fit and resource availability.
Customer Facing Questions
- Is the procurement within the scope of the customer’s mission and functions?
- Has the customer actively demonstrated an intent to procure the product or service?
- Are there active lines of funding for this procurement?
- Have the funding documents for the procurement identified the funding source and mechanism?
- Does the forecasted budget appropriately reflect the scope of the procurement?
- Is there a realistic acquisition strategy (resources and timeframe) for the procurement?
Internal Assessment Questions
- Is the procurement relevant to your company’s strategic plan?
- Do current or future company capabilities match program requirements?
- Do you have or can you acquire relevant past performance?
- Does the discreet customer know your company?
- Does your company have a good reputation with this customer?
- Are you able to identify the key buying influences?
A “no” answer to any of these questions is not an automatic disqualifier for the opportunity. The stage of your capture activity should dictate the internal resources necessary to proceed. If the procurement is still several months from release, there is time to track down additional information to validate the opportunity. Inside of three months from solicitation release, your solution and team should be formed and evolving as you learn of new written and unwritten requirements. If the majority of the answers are still “no” within two months of solicitation release, then you should probably downgrade the opportunity’s rating or remove it from the pipeline.
However, a “yes” answer to every questions does not mean that the solicitation will be released or that you will submit the winning bid. Opportunities can be overcome by internal or external events in an instant. Understanding when to pull the plug is a necessary and resource-saving exercise when validating your pipeline.
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Kyle Green (firstname.lastname@example.org) leads the federal business development practice for Mythics, Inc., an award-winning Oracle implementation and customization firm.