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What is a Capture Manager and what role do they play in winning?

Complex must-win bids require dedicated attention to win

A capture manager is a dedicated person assigned to winning a business pursuit, and provides the leadership, coordination, resource allocation, strategy, and management needed to prepare the winning bid. While a business development manager is responsible for a portfolio of leads, a capture manager is usually assigned to just one. Capture Managers are most often used for large complex sales, where closing the sale will take the business development manager’s attention away from pursuing the other leads. A Capture Manager plays a key role in between business development and proposal writing that can greatly improve your chances of closing the sale.

Being a capture manager is the hardest job in the entire company. It also requires the qualifications and experience that cover a wider range than most people have. Consider:

Being a capture manager is the hardest job in the entire company
  • A capture manager has to know what to offer, how the offering should be designed, and how to make cost/value tradeoffs and still win. 
  • A capture manager has to not only have the technical skills to know how to do the work, a capture manager also has to know how to sell. A capture manager has to not only know how to sell, but has to do it externally as well as internally. A big part of a capture manager’s job is negotiating and persuading people within their own company.
  • A capture manager has to know pricing and contracts well enough to negotiate terms and win.
  • A capture manager has to know enough about proposals to anticipate the information required to write the winning proposal.
  • A capture manager has to have enough authority to make decisions and work through other people without being constantly second guessed.
  • A capture manager has to be able to take risks.

On top of all that, a capture manager has a high chance of getting fired if the bid loses.

See also:
Capture Management

Assigning a capture manager who can’t check all those boxes lowers your chances of winning. Companies that automatically assign the future project manager as the capture manager will usually be assigning someone with skill gaps. If it’s a recompete, the project manager may also have bias regarding the current state that prevents them from being sufficiently innovative. 

The difficulty in finding a top-notch capture manager is one reason companies often turn to consultants. But this isn’t a perfect solution either. A capture manager needs to know your company’s history, resources, and capabilities. In some companies, that can’t be learned quickly in meetings. But in others it’s possible. A capture manager also needs to know your customer’s preferences. Some companies don’t even know their customer’s preferences. You generally won’t get that by hiring a consultant, even one with some experience at the customer’s organization. But you might get it if the capture manager can spend enough time getting to know the customer. Unfortunately, consultants usually aren’t given the months that are needed for that. 

Most companies go for what is cheap and convenient, and then convince themselves it’s an effective choice. Don’t be that kind of company. Be the kind that understands win rate mathematics and how achieving a high win rate is about return on investment. Manage to get the highest return instead of the lowest investment.

But mostly, being a capture manager is about negotiations. Everything that you need a company to decide or put effort into in order to win the pursuit will require negotiation. Every person that you engage in helping bring home the win will require negotiation. Oh, and then there’s the customer.

The customer is easy. All you need to do there is to discover their preferences and give them what they need in a way that’s better than their alternatives. It’s your own company that will be hard. Who is going to discover the customer’s preferences? How much effort will be required to do things and where will the resources come from? Who has the authority to decide every little thing? How do you get the price low enough to win? What is a price that is low enough to win? How do you get it all into your proposal, articulated effectively, and submitted on time? Oh, and if you think the customer is as easy as it says above, think twice.

All opportunity in your company comes from growth. This means all opportunity comes from capture. It’s a hard job. And everybody depends on it. It’s worth a quality approach. Don’t skimp on the qualifications of your capture manager. Make the person you need available. But don’t just assume that getting the right person is all it takes. Hiring the right people is not enough. Surround your capture manager with all the organization, process, and resource advantages that maximize your win rate. Put the least amount into it as you need to be incredibly successful.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

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.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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