The science of opportunity identification

Winning strategies | How to build your business development team

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Much has been written about capture and proposal management. At most companies it is a well-defined, documented and integrated procedure. Likewise, most business development organizations are well acquainted with the Step, Stage or Gate Review processes.

What many business development
organizations have not
documented or institutionalized
is an opportunity
identification and
qualification process. As
a result, companies
often struggle to understand
what it involves
and how to integrate
capture management and opportunity
identification processes.

Capture management and opportunity
identification are not interchangeable
terms. Capture management is based on
an opportunity that has already been identified,
whereas opportunity identification
denotes the primary identification and
qualification of those opportunities.
Capture management concerns the pursuit
of opportunities. The opportunity
identification process pertains to selecting
the right opportunities to pursue.

Business development organizations
that work with clients to solidify relationships
and shape prospects for more than
a year produce win rates that exceed
75 percent. Companies focused on short-term,
opportunities, with less than a year
of client interaction and intelligence-gathering,
experience a win rate of less
than 15 percent.

Opportunity identification involves
early intelligence gathering to avoid poor
opportunities and substantiate the selection
of opportunities with valid data. In
that way, the business development team
is driven to find the best opportunities.
Once identified and validated, it's the capture
team's job to ensure that these opportunities
are won.

Intelligence is critical to both processes.
Good intelligence plays a significant role
in disqualifying low probability opportunities
early. It's this same valid intelligence,
gathered during the opportunity identification
phase, which then feeds the capture
process and helps craft a winning offer.
Capture and proposal management is a
costly endeavor.

Weak, flawed or
missing intelligence
on the front end
drains bid and proposal
funds if not
linked to a process
that uncovers and
presents high probability opportunities to

This front-end process must drive the
standard, since the capture manager must
rely on the information gathered during
this stage to make an informed business
decision about the risk profile of the
opportunity and balance it with the win
percentage. Lack of intelligence leads to
poor business decisions, frequently based
on gut feelings and not on customer
expectations or input.

Many capture managers lack experience
in asking the hard questions early to disqualify
a lead. Unfortunately, only much
later do they conclude there's little chance
of winning the bid. By then, they've often
invested too much capital to make the
hard decision to cut their losses and walk
away from the project.

Obtaining better intelligence on the
front end, which in turn drives the capture
process, is the solution. Writing a first-rate
proposal is no match for submitting one
that actually addresses the problem. And
the only way to understand the problem is
to develop a relationship anchored on confidence
and trust before the request for
proposals is ever released.

It just makes sense for contractors to
balance their bid and proposal funds with
quality intelligence, especially in an era of
dwindling opportunities and increased
competition. Early teaming among your
business development and capture management
with subject-matter
experts using a
structured opportunity
and qualification
results in a winning outcome and an enviable
return on time, talent and budget

Bill Scheessele ( is
chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a
business development professional services firm.

About the Author

Bill Scheessele is the CEO of MBDi, a global business development services firm providing expertise in Business Development best practices in the national security, defense, scientific, energy and engineering industries. The firm offers BD consulting services in addition to education workshops to help BD professionals and teams identify hidden strengths, barriers to progress and opportunities for improvement. Learn more about MBDi, their revenue growth resources and their new virtual training options at or 704.553.0000.

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