3 Critical Steps to Surviving Tough Times

There’s little doubt that the federal budget will undergo some contractions this year, either because Congress will reduce spending levels outright for some agencies or the inevitable flow of continuing resolutions will postpone approval for new spending levels. As budgets shrink, there will be fewer new contracts in the government contractor market. With fewer deals to compete for, contractors will need to raise their level of competitiveness to win their share.

Now is the time to invest in new business acquisition, not scale back. Companies making investments in people, processes and technology will raise their level of competitiveness and, in the face of a tightening market, will win their share of new business. Companies failing to meet these new challenges will become casualties as they watch the market change and competitions become more demanding.

Invest in people

You can raise the level of competitiveness of your business development (BD), capture management and proposal development team in several ways.

First, select the right professionals. You want people who deeply understand your business and your market and can compete at the intellectual level demanded by this heightened competition. This is your core business acquisition team and can be augmented by consultants who specialize in the government market.

Next, provide basic and advanced training to improve their skills and increase their effectiveness. Training in BD, capture management, proposal management and proposal writing are important steps in maintaining and improving professional skills. Whether you choose internal or external training programs, instruction should be designed and delivered by training specialists who are experts in the government market.

Finally, coach your team to perform at the highest levels of competitiveness. Coaching must be delivered by highly skilled professionals who know how to compete and win at this new level of play. If you do not have these coaching resources on staff, look to consultants to augment your team.

Improve business acquisition processes

As competition increases, business processes become more important for competing at higher levels. Your business acquisition processes should be well defined, repeatable, managed, measured and optimized for the market you serve. Processes should be integrated from new business opportunity identification through the capture, preproposal and proposal phases — and even integrated with contract performance.

Quality reviews should be built into the process at appropriate intervals and used to raise your level of competitiveness. Standard procedures with data collection templates should be used for all steps in the process. Those increase process efficiency and improve the completeness and quality of information.

Archive documents in an enterprise repository to ensure availability to all authorized participants. Lessons learned from each pursuit should be archived in this repository, and process performance metrics should be collected and analyzed to provide a quantitative basis for process improvement and optimization.

Use technology

Technology has become an essential enabler for the modern BD organization. Pipeline management tools track the progress of new opportunities across the acquisition life cycle. Workflow management tools aide in automating capture and proposal processes. Collaborative virtual workspaces are routinely used to manage capture and proposal activities. Those tools seamlessly integrate employees and team members into the new business acquisition process.

Enterprise repositories should house documents such as marketing plans, capture plans, bid strategies, design documents, current and past proposals, graphics libraries, company résumés, and past-performance contract references. Virtual tools are used to conduct sales, capture and proposal discussions versus traveling to face-to-face meetings.

The path forward

Those who invest in business acquisition should see payoffs in increased win rates, improved efficiency and more new business revenue. Those who don’t will likely lag behind the leaders, merge with other firms or cede parts of their business portfolio to others in the market. Which path you choose is the most important choice you can make in a shrinking market.

This article was originally published April 4, 2011 in WashingtonTechnology.com.

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Lohfeld Consulting