It’s no secret that the most effective proposals are highly targeted, specific and customized. But, where does the information that guides the proposal strategy, pricing and message come from? And, how can you be sure the message will hit the mark with the customer? For successful proposal teams, the answer is capture management.
The capture management process improves your chances of winning. In this blog, I’ll define capture management and explore all of the benefits of establishing a capture management process. Next, I’ll share information about the role of a capture manager. And finally, I’ll offer helpful resources for professional development.
What is capture management?
Capture management, also called capture planning, is the process of gathering insight, building connections, developing competitive intelligence and strategizing how to win a future request for proposal (RFP) opportunity.
Essentially, a capture plan gives your company an advantage with the customer. It allows you to connect with them, demonstrate your understanding of their needs and position your company as the best solution. And, this all happens before receiving the RFP.
The timing of capture planning is particularly important. After all, when it comes to large projects, if you only start considering how to win when you receive the RFP, you may already be at a disadvantage. Larry Newman, author of the ebook, Shipley Capture Guide, explains:
“Most sales and marketing veterans agree that 40 to 80 percent of the time, customers decide whom they would prefer to buy from before proposals are submitted.
The aim of capture planning is to position the customer to prefer your organization and your solution to the exclusion of competitors, or to at least prefer to do business with your organization prior to proposals being submitted.”
He goes on to say that the goal of the capture process is to move from an unknown position to a favored position with the buyer before the RFP process begins.
Unlike account planning or business development, which strategize how to win new customers, the capture management process is specific to a particular procurement project. So, throughout the customer relationship, you may create several capture plans. Luckily, much of the intelligence you gather in your initial capture plan will apply to future opportunities as well.
The benefits of capture management
When executed properly, capture management transforms an informal process of relying on gut feelings to influence a customer into a methodical approach based on research. Additionally, beyond the primary goal of moving from an unknown position to a favored position, additional capture management benefits include:
- Clear opportunity qualification and easier bid/no-bid decisions
- Increased chance to win based on research and connections
- More focused proposals with shortened proposal timelines
- Faster sales and a more qualified pipeline
- Improved customer relationships and experience
When should you use capture management?
Your time is valuable, and capture planning is a long and detailed process. Naturally, not every RFP requires an in-depth, long-term strategy. For the highest possible return on investment, capture planning should be used primarily in pursuit of high-value, complex opportunities. Accordingly, the practice is common for organizations seeking to win government business.
You may also consider creating an abbreviated capture management process. After all, even routine RFPs can yield big results. The shorter process can likewise help solidify your position without a substantial time investment. With this in mind, use the plan to focus on the customer’s needs, your competition and the best possible solution.
What is a capture manager?
A capture manager is the person responsible for the research, analysis and strategy that create the capture plan. In a large business, the capture manager may be a dedicated role within the proposal team. Consequently, they work closely with several teams. In most cases, they bridge the gap between business development and proposal creation.
However, in small- and medium-sized businesses, the proposal manager, sales manager or business development lead may act as the capture manager. Also, many proposal development consultants offer support in this area. For example, they may help you build a specific capture plan, or they may help create or optimize your capture management process.
The bulk of the capture manager’s duties happen before the customer issues the RFP. However, they are still involved in the process as they transition the opportunity to the proposal team. Consequently, they work closely with the proposal coordinator and subject matter experts as needed. In addition to pre-RFP research and proposal planning, the capture manager sees the opportunity through to its conclusion. Even more, they may also leverage their knowledge for RFP presentations and contract negotiations.
Capture manager responsibilities
- Opportunity and organization research
- Competitive intelligence
- SWOT assessments
- Solution planning
- Risk analysis
- Capture and proposal team coordination
- Bid strategy, pricing and review process
- Capture plan creation and execution
- Proposal review
Granted, these duties may seem straightforward, but selecting a capture manager shouldn’t be taken lightly. Carl Dickson, founder of captureplanning.com discusses the importance of hiring and empowering a capture manager saying:
“All opportunity in your company comes from growth. This means all opportunity comes from capture. It’s a hard job. And everybody depends on it. It’s worth a quality approach.
Don’t skimp on the qualifications of your capture manager. Make the person you need available. But don’t just assume that getting the right person is all it takes. Hiring the right people is not enough. Surround your capture manager with all the organization, process and resource advantages that maximize your win rate.”
The capture management process
To be successful, capture management must begin early. Not only is a significant amount of research required, but you must also have time to execute your plan by making connections with your customer. Most capture plans take between nine and 18 months to create and complete.
8 essential steps to capture management
- Identify the opportunity
- Explore the customer’s needs and goals
- Determine if the opportunity is a good fit for the pursuit
- Create a capture plan and recruit a capture team
- Build a preliminary solution framework to achieve customer goals
- Evaluate likely competitors and develop pricing
- Define your win strategy and advantages
- Connect with the customer and position your solution
Unfortunately, not every opportunity will be a good fit for your business. Therefore, at each milestone in the process, the capture manager and capture team should evaluate any new information and critically analyze the lead. If it seems unlikely that your organization will win, abandon the pursuit. Ultimately, it’s better to move on with lessons learned and seek a more qualified opportunity in the future.
Capture plan components
So, what kinds of information should go into your capture plan? Remember to include any information that will inform your win strategy or provide background on the customer. To illustrate, think of the capture manager as a detective and the capture plan as a dossier. The plan details the organization’s key players, history, goals and challenges.
Resources and information to include in your capture plan:
- Customer hot buttons, pain points, requirements, goals and expectations
- Key influencers in the customer’s organization: Executives, stakeholders and procurement staff
- Summary of any previous customer relationship or crucial interactions
- Win team and proposal team roles (use a RACI matrix)
- Internal and external resources required for plan execution
- Previous RFx documents (consider uploading into your RFP management system to begin crafting responses to common questions)
- Evaluation of market and economic factors that may influence selection
- Competitive intelligence and advantages
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis
- Solution planning and design
- Primary win themes
- Proposal plan outline and key points
Even if capture management is a new concept to you, you probably already perform some of the responsibilities of a capture manager. Admittedly, winning business through capture management requires a significant investment of time and resources. But, if you’re able to improve your win rate and secure big contracts, it’s ultimately worth it.
Resources for capture managers
Of course, there’s always more to learn. Start here to explore additional capture management information and professional development tools:
- Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP): Capture practitioner certification
- Key to Winning podcast: Capture Management: A Beginner’s Guide
- Trello: Capture planning example
- AOC Key Solutions: Capture manager’s checklist
- Shipley Associates: Capture guide 3.0 and Introduction to capture planning