What does it take to win new work in the Intelligence Community?  We have already gone over branding and corporate direction and capture.  Now let’s talk about the business development guy and the role that business development has in winning new business.

There are some jobs in the IC that provide frequent and satisfying feedback that regularly allows you to know if you are on course, efficient, and properly aligned.  Business Development (BD) is not one of those jobs.  BD is a long game where it can take years to find out whether efforts have resulted in success or failure.    Business Development is the identification, qualification, tracking, and initial response planning of opportunities that fit within your company growth strategy.  Once your company has identified what type of work to pursue, business development will identify the opportunities to go after and lay the groundwork for success in that pursuit.

Multiple Efforts to great business development

BD professionals do not simply go after one program win.  At any given time, each BD member in your organization will have several identified opportunities at various stages, from pre-qualification through to awaiting award.  This is different from the Capture manager who will typically work to close one effort or possibly working one primary and one secondary effort at a time.  The BD manager’s multiple pursuits are tracked and qualified, data is gathered and assessed, and potential teams and response scenarios are contemplated and assembled.  This jumble of ongoing pursuits is called a pipeline.  Your BD professional (or your BD team, depending on the size of your company) will regularly provide briefings or updates on the status of opportunities in the pipeline. Tracking multiple opportunities, their size, dates, points of contact, potential competitors and teammates, formal procurement announcements, customer and contract intelligence, and so on can be difficult to manage and keep organized, so there are tools available to specifically help with this task.

Business Development Tools

Fortunately, there are some very useful tools available to help the BD professional.  One such tool is GovWin IQ, owned by Deltek.  GovWin IQ helps by providing early intelligence on IC opportunities, contract procurement status, and agency key decision makers.  From its website, Deltek states that, “GovWin IQ helps your business discover opportunities before they go to bid in the form of expiring term contracts, forecast pre-RFP intelligence, and planned, funded projects. Our forward-looking intelligence provides you with the ability to manage opportunities, pursue deals faster, find partners for teaming, and plan strategically to get ahead of the competition.”  Tools like this are very useful in keeping the pipeline organized and helps with the frequent briefings that BD provides to upper management.  Other tools are meetings, lunches, AFCEA events, and so on.  These are events where it is possible to gather intel on potential teammates or competitors, discuss what the customer’s procurement strategy is likely to be, and so on.

Business Development Terms

To understand the BD world, you need to know the terminology.  Here are some BD terms in no particular order that you must know to have any clue what your BD manager is talking about.

Gate Review: The gate reviews are a series of gates that opportunities must pass through in order that pursuit may continue. A full pursuit through proposal effort cost is 1-2% of the overall contract value. Company and BD leadership use gate reviews to ensure that time and money are spent wisely (hopefully), and that pursuits maintain momentum and satisfy their established criteria (basically, work we want to do and where there is a chance of winning).

Go / No Go: This is the final decision on whether or not to pursue an opportunity and develop a proposal.  Also called Bid / No Bid, it is a decision meeting attended by company and BD decision makers where the attending group decides whether sufficient groundwork has been done and that the opportunity is one to pursue.

pWin: The pWin is an internal assessment of the likelihood or “probability (p)” of a win.  This number is also used to forecast future earnings where, for example, a 100M contract with a 30% pWin translates to 30M in future anticipated revenue.

Gap Analysis: The gap analysis is a review of what the customer is looking for and an assessment of how well your company and team matches against the anticipated customer program requirements.  The initial gap analysis results will drive who your BD and Capture leads will look for to compliment the capabilities and experience of your team.

Competitive Landscape: This is a view of who your likely competitors are to be, including the current prime.  When considering a potential opportunity, the BD lead will seek to determine how the current incumbent is performing and how their relationship is with the customer.

Talking Points: These are quick takeaways on what you want the customer or potential teammates to know about your solution or capabilities that you will bring to a specific opportunity.

Market Survey: Provided by the customer, the market survey lets Industry know of a potential upcoming contract opportunity and lets the customer gauge interest and qualify potential bidders.  By the time a market survey comes out, the customer likely has a plan, even if not fully defined, for an acquisition opportunity such as a rebid or new opportunity.

Request for Information (RFI): Unlike the Market Survey, the RFI can provide very little information about a customer’s potential procurement activity.  It is more akin to the customer “testing the waters” to see who might have the experience and capabilities that they are looking for in a potential procurement.

Business development Required Skills

The ideal BD professional is both strategic-minded and gregarious. He or she also needs to be well-organized and able to work on their own and as part of a team. The BD professional is able to strategize, plan a complete pursuit, and have an outgoing and engaging personality. The BD job is a sales job, but one that requires the strategy of a chess player and customer knowledge and familiarity. Knowledge of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), contract types and their implications, contacts within industry, with the government or DoD, and even personal reputation – these are all important to your BD lead. The BD professional is a strategist who engages well with people – an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, for example. Beyond that, it is down to contacts and work ethic.

A Critical Component

You may have a great proposal development team, but without the right target to go after, your chance of success is greatly diminished. Your BD professional will not only find the right program to pursue, but will also lay the groundwork for a win. Not all growth is from prime contracts. Your BD lead is also your company’s point of contact for teaming on other pursuit efforts. The BD professional is an important part of your growth strategy, a very critical component responsible for identifying and working those opportunities for company growth. However, keep in mind that successful growth in the IC comes from an entire organization committed to understanding, identifying, pursuing, winning and executing their customer’s mission.

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Todd Keys is a Program Manager at Cantada, Inc. He has been in the intelligence Community for 30 years, as a member of the military (USAF), and as a contractor for top 100, top 10, and small business federal defense contractors. He has held multiple roles, CONUS and OCONUS, ranging from technician to executive, providing site O&M, system administration, engineering, supervision, contract management, and Capture/BD for the DoD and multiple intelligence agencies.
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