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Is it business development's job to win?

Who should own the pursuit once it's identified?

A Business Development manager's job is to find as many qualified leads as possible. If you make Business Development cover lead identification through closing, Business Development will have to stop chasing leads when the proposal starts if they make it their job to win. Your company will see-saw between having leads to chase yesterday but none tomorrow because Business Development got sucked into capture or a proposal. If you want a continuous flow of leads, you need continuous lead identification and qualification. 

If you want to get ahead of the RFP you need to begin practicing relationship marketing. You won’t be successful doing this a few months here and a few months there. If you want to gain insight into your customers and the opportunities, you need to form relationships strong enough to produce an information advantage. If instead of waiting for procurements to appear, you want to initiate them so that you can shape the requirements and have the advantage, you need business development to form the relationships that can make this happen. This is their job. It’s a fulltime job. And it alone is a major contribution to winning. 

See also:
Relationship Marketing

Business development cultivates the leads and qualifies them. Keep in mind that it's your company's responsibility to define lead qualification criteria. The company shapes business development’s contribution to winning by setting the standards for lead qualification, and not simply chasing everything found.

However, when a business developer spends a big fraction of time on capture or proposals, the company ends up less likely to have strong lead qualification. The leads found between pursuits tend to get less effort put into their assessment. There is also more incentive to chase them to get out of the “dry spell.” So not only do the leads come in spurts, but they also tend to be lesser quality. 

The company should set a high bar regarding what's an acceptable lead worth investing in winning. If that means hiring a capture manager because a lead is worth the cost of having put dedicated time into preparing to win the pursuit, then do that. Because the math shows it's worth it. Doubling your chances of winning a qualified lead doubles your long-term revenue. The cost of capture compared to that is peanuts. 

Increasing your win rate is one of the most profitable things a company can do. And the converse is also true. Allowing low win probability bad habits to set in will leave a ton of money on the table and suck the potential right out of your company.

What you can do without crossing the line and making Business Development responsible for winning?

Consider making part of Business Development's incentive package based on winning to encourage support and collaboration during the pursuit. Business Development does cultivate relationships that are vital for winning and you want their insights to show up in the document. You just don't want them to stop identifying qualified leads to provide them.
What about capture management?

Business development finds leads and qualifies them. They need to hand off those leads to someone who is going be dedicated to doing all the tasks needed to be prepared to win them. That is the role of capture, and it’s a vital role. You just can’t be dedicated to two different roles at the same time.

A qualified lead is worth investing in winning. It’s worth dedicated attention. But continuous lead generation is also worth dedicated attention. Do the math. If the numbers don’t show having dedicated attention for both of these roles is worth it by orders of magnitude, then you have a strategic planning problem at the top level. Neither business development nor capture management can save you if your strategic planning does not lead to enough business to give dedicated attention to both lead generation and capture.

If you are a startup, and haven’t reached the point where you have the cashflow to support both roles, then you have to be strategic about how you will get there. The size and profit margin of your pursuit determine whether you will need lots of leads or a high win probability on the leads you do have. You can start with someone capable of doing both business development and capture, but you’ll need to focus their attention strategically so that you can grow to where the two roles split. The same ends up being true for proposals. You need dedicated attention to all three to maximize your win probability and ROI.


Business development cultivates winnable leads, but only if you have strong lead qualification and strategic direction. The best ROI comes from having someone else capture them. Business Development makes a vital contribution to winning, but making winning their job gets in the way of maximizing your ROI.

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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