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

The primary missions of business development, capture, 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:

  • Business development is to identify a portfolio of qualified leads for the company to pursue. They identify, qualify, advocate, and track. They focus on gathering intelligence and building relationships. As a result, the business development phase becomes mostly about getting smart about the customer and opportunity, with lead reporting for tracking. They hand off to capture when it’s time to move beyond lead identification and qualification into pursuit.
  • Capture is about having a dedicated focus on winning a particular pursuit. They develop understanding, figure out what to offer, create strategies, identify resources, and make decisions. For them it’s all about what to offer, but figuring that out takes them through marketing, corporate strategy, proposal development, finance, pricing, contracts, human resources, and everywhere else. They hand off to proposal management when it’s time to put it all in writing.
  • Proposal management should be about closing the sale through a written document, but too often the challenges of making a compliant submission by the deadline leaves little room for much else.

Having each focus on their own role exclusively is not the best way to build towards 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 starts at RFP release, 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, 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.

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, they each must contribute to the proposal. However, where a lot of organizations go wrong is that 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 the effort of writing.

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. This in turn means that you don’t need broad statements about the customer, you need to know what matters to the customer and what their preferences are. When you sit down to write, you want to be in the position of being able to describe 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 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 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.

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Carl is the Founder and President of and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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