Business development vs. capture management vs. proposal management vs. winning

Instead of roles and hand-offs, what you really need is an integrated effort.

The primary missions of business development, capture management, and proposal management are all very different. And yet, they share the same goal: winning. The way they are normally practiced is as a series of hand-offs:

Each must deliver information that will support writing a winning proposal
  • Business development identifies a portfolio of qualified leads for the company to pursue. Business development managers identify, qualify, advocate, and track leads. They focus on gathering intelligence and building relationships. As a result, the business development phase is mostly about relationship marketing getting smart about the customer and opportunity, with lead reporting for tracking. Business development hands off to capture management when it’s time to move beyond lead identification and qualification into pursuit.
  • Capture management is providing a dedicated resource to focus on winning a particular pursuit. Capture Managers develop understanding, figure out what to offer, create strategies, identify resources, and make decisions. Capture management is all about what to offer and presenting it in a winning proposal. But figuring out how to capture the lead requires knowledge and skills in marketing, corporate strategy, proposal development, finance, pricing, contracts, project management, human resources, and basically everything else. It may very well be the most difficult job in a company, partly because very few people have experience in everything needed, and partly because they have to sell internally within the company just as much as they have to sell to the customer. Capture management hands off to proposal management when it’s time to put it all in writing.
  • Proposal management guides the process of closing the sale through a written document. Too often the challenges of making a compliant submission by the deadline leaves little room for much else. To be successful, the proposal manager and capture manager must form a close partnership. Without someone filling the role of capture manager, a proposal manager often has to fill voids that go well beyond the scope of proposal development. If they don't, then the odds of winning go way down, without sufficient attention paid to the things a capture manager would normally handle.

Having each focus on their own role exclusively is not the best way to build toward achieving the common goal of winning. Instead of roles and hand-offs, what you really need is an integrated effort. Unfortunately when:

  • Business development tracks the leads but doesn’t have much to contribute to the proposal beyond broad generalizations, it’s barely even part of closing the sale for the leads it identified.
  • Capture management figures out what to offer by writing about it, fails to identify what it will take to win, or is unable to articulate strategies that differentiate, it sets the stage for a proposal effort that can do little more than make an on-time submission, with winning a secondary concern.
  • Proposal management fails to define what information is needed from business development and capture management, how that information should flow into a plan for the proposal that defines what is to be written before writing starts, or how what it will take to win becomes criteria for reviewing the quality of the proposal produced, they set themselves up as document producers and not winners.

Shifting from isolated roles to an integrated effort to win

To make the shift from isolated roles to an integrated effort to win, each must contribute to closing the sale. When the sale closes with a proposal, business development, capture management, and proposal management must each contribute to winning the proposal. Contributing to the proposal does not necessarily mean taking on writing assignments. What it really means is that each must deliver information that will support writing a winning proposal.

What separates a good proposal from a great proposal is how well it reflects the customer’s perspective instead of merely describing the company submitting the proposal. That means that everything in the proposal should be about what the customer will get and what matters about it, instead of simply being a description of your qualifications and approach. When you sit down to write, you want to be in the position of being able to describe yourself and your approaches in the context of why they matter to the customer.

During business development, you should be actively seeking answers to what matters to the customer and what it will take to win. During capture you should be designing an offering that reflects what matters to the customer. When you do this, then during proposal writing you will be able to describe your response to the RFP requirements from the customer’s perspective and build a proposal around what it will take to win.

Business development will not reliably provide the right information required to do this in the proposal phase, without some help from proposal management. Capture management will not reliably design an offering around what matters to the customer, without some insight from business development and some help incorporating positioning into offer design. Proposal management has to reach out and help both business development and capture management understand what they need at the moment of planning and writing to go beyond compliance and create a great proposal that is written from the customer’s perspective. If you give them generalizations, you will get generalizations.

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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