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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Kippes

Five Capture Tips I Learned From Shipley

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

As I said a couple weeks back, I am a sucker for great continuing education. This year, as one of my many goals, I wanted to expand my knowledge of capture planning. I sat down for a one-day intensive from Shipley Associates on the topic - from the comfort of my very own desk.

I was happy to hear that a lot of the messages the Shipley trainers had to share were lessons that I'd learned before. Of course, the devil is always in the implementation, so the reminders of best practice in capture planning were incredibly welcome. Here are five core take-aways that I want to pass on to you:

1. Four Cs

Assessing the customer, competition, company, and cost are essential for understanding how your organization can increase your probability of winning. Start with knowing and understanding the customer team. Understanding your competitors and your own company are essential - and using a bidder comparison chart can help you weigh out strengths and weaknesses more objectively. Finally, cost is a huge determinant, and bringing in price and costing earlier and earlier - even in capture - is essential to understanding competitiveness.

2. You have to qualify to compete

Note this is Shipley use of "qualify" - not as in you must be eligible, but you must prove your qualifications. This means that you have to peel back multiple stages, from what they really want to what type of organization they want to buy from, to how it will be funded, and where it can take you eventually. These are all questions that I see pop up here and there, but rarely are they analyzed in a formal or detailed way. Not to mention revisiting these points as you gather more information.

3. Listen more than you talk

So. Many. People. Need. This. Reminder. Emphasis mine. I've sat in and heard of so many meetings where business development folks came out infuriated at their technical counterparts for making this mistake. When you're in a meeting with a potential customer, the goal should not be to share your solution. It should be to keep them talking as much as humanly possible. The only way you learn is by letting them talk. Drill down into what they're struggling with, what their priorities are, what their biggest headache is. That's where you learn what will give you the extra edge in winning.

4. Take a triumvirate approach to capture team roles

Something I'd learned, but forgotten. With smaller business development teams, this goes by the wayside fast, but ideally a capture team includes three distinct roles: capture manager (directing customer/donor contact and owning the capture strategy), proposal manager (planning the proposal process and leading a winning bid), and the project/program manager (overseeing the technical design and eventual implementation). Working together, these three roles see the project from opportunity to implementation - the ideal scenario.

5. Manage capture decision gates like proposal decision gates

So often an opportunity floating in the capture stage is just that - floating. It's amorphous and lacks the structure that a concrete 30 or 60 day proposal process uses to give it form, structure, and deadlines. By managing your capture decision gates more like proposal decision gates, it can create that illusion of hard and fast deadlines. This will both prevent your organization from spending time and money on opportunities dead in the water and give your capture team the motivation to keep the ball rolling.

These are all great reminders to take forward. How do you envision applying some of these tips in your work?

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