5 Passing Grades You Need to Lead the Pack

Ever wonder why some companies appear to be the odds-on favorite to win a contract?

A well-orchestrated, pre-request for proposals ritual goes on long before a procurement is released for bid. Company business development, technical and management professionals step up the frequency of visits to their customers to better understand customer objectives and to perfect their company’s solution. Those professionals also preview their solutions with government stakeholders to validate assumptions and build advocacy for their company’s offering.

Their focus is simple: ensuring their proposed solution meets or exceeds government requirements and resonates with the customer.

Those industry professionals work to shape the agency’s procurement strategy, ensuring it is favorable to their firm and the solutions they will propose. Offering insights on procurement strategy; choice of contract vehicles; RFP instructions, evaluation factors, subfactors, and criteria; contract terms and conditions; and pricing approaches are the norm. Discussion topics in some procurements, such as the Air Force tanker contract, include single award versus multiple award. Other pursuits focus on full-and-open competition versus set-aside programs and which of the many set-aside types should be used. Should the government limit proposals to 50 pages or 500 pages? Should there be two or 20 key personnel résumés? Should the award be made on the basis of best value or does the technically acceptable lowest price win? All are important considerations, and the top contenders will have a voice in the outcome of each.

Throughout this positioning ritual, companies aim to be viewed by the customer as one of the small group of top contenders for award.

Positioning Effectiveness Score Card

Positioning Objective Assessment Criteria
Understand requirements and objectives. Requirements and objectives discussed with multiple people at customer organization.
Establish company credibility and interest. Company viewed as a leader with known corporate, technical and project management teams in addition to solid past performance and experience.
Preview preliminary solution with customer. Well-developed solution with features linked to objectives and approach vetted with customer to get buy-in and solution validation.
Achieve acceptance of win strategy (technical, management, past performance, teaming, price) accepted by customer. Win strategy well established, previewed and accepted by customer.
Influence the request for proposals. Procurement strategy, proposal instructions, and evaluation criteria favorable.

Positioning Is Important

Positioning is one of the fundamental steps in capture management. As a capture manager, you want to ensure the government knows your firm and its reputation for excellence, in addition to your management team, planned technical approach, past performance and ability to price competitively. You want to validate your understanding of the government’s requirements and objectives, test the features of your solution to ensure that they bring value to the customer, and present your teaming strategy and team members. Finally, you want to validate that your win strategy separates your firm from other top contenders.

A positioning score card is a useful tool to assess how well you are positioned. The sidebar figure shows a typical score card used to measure the effectiveness of your positioning campaign. It describes each positioning objective and the criteria used to assess how well you achieved each objective. Additional objectives, such as risk, past performance, teaming and so on, can be added based on your specific circumstances and the competitive field. If you cannot show that you have accomplished each positioning objective, you have work to do. If you run out of time to do the required positioning work, it is likely that others are better positioned in this race.

Your goal should be to position your firm as the top contender. Proper positioning lays the groundwork for a win well before the acquisition takes place and makes you a partner in the acquisition development. If you help define the battlefield, your odds of winning increase.

This article was originally published March 3, 2010 in WashingtonTechnology.com.