Tips on how to build a business development pipeline

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Tips on how to build a business development pipeline

It is important to manage your business development activities by implementing and maintaining a pipeline to track the opportunities you may want to pursue and bid. As these opportunities progress through the business development lifecycle, the pipeline helps you track how they may have changed over time, how many of them resulted in bids, and how many of the bids resulted in a win.

You have an idea of where to find opportunities. When you have identified the agencies that might need what you sell, you have begun to build your pipeline. Now how do you organize and track these opportunities?

  1. Determine what the pipeline looks like

With all the opportunities you are identifying, you probably have multiple ideas. Some will make it through the bid stage (and hopefully awarded to you!), while others are going to end with a no-bid decision. The steps you use to track your prospects through to a bid/no bid decision and beyond show the progression of each opportunity through the pipeline. The stages most commonly used to track prospects through the pipeline are:

  • Long-term positioning – early in the process; involves identifying strategic markets, alliances, and objectives
  • Qualification  – gather customer requirements; identify and qualify specific opportunities
  • Development – develop capture strategies, capture and plans, and solution concept; identify key personnel and past performance
  • Proposal  – receive an RFP; develop the proposal, along with an oral presentation and/or demo if required
  • Post-submittal – answer clarification questions from the customer, revise the proposal, and conduct negotiations with the Government
  1. Calculate the Probability of Win (Pwin)

You want to give your management leaders an initial indication of the probability you will win a specific opportunity and give the financial team a weighting factor of the impact winning or losing the opportunity will have to the company’s bottom line. By making an honest assessment of your approach to bidding the opportunity against the competition and other factors, you can determine your Pwin. You can also use the average number of opportunities you win to calculate how many opportunities you need in each of the phases. These calculations provide an assessment of how healthy the pipeline is at each stage.

  1. Identify phase milestones

You have determined the opportunity phases and calculated your Pwin. Now you have to keep moving the opportunities through the difference phases to contract award. It is important to identify the factors or milestones that must be met to advance an opportunity to the next phase. These factors could include identifying potential teammates, getting budget approval, making a bid/no bid decision, calculating the price to win, or submitting the proposal. The important thing is to have a milestone at the end of each phase that opens the gate to move it to the next one. ,

  1. Continue to identify new leads

You always must be engaged in the activities that will identify and add new opportunities to your pipeline. Not everyone tasked with creating or contributing to the pipeline understand the various ways that exist to generate appropriate leads. What are some of the ways to identify leads to fill your pipeline?

  1. Current contracts – Protecting the work you already have in place is critical to any successful business. Track when your existing contracts are coming up for recompete, including all your current work whether you are the prime or a subcontractor on the programs. Stay in regular contact with the customers for your existing programs. You’ll learn how the customer views your company when preparing for a recompete, and you’ll also find out if any changes to the procurement are planned, such as a decision to categorize a recompete as a small business set-aside or to change the scope of work.
  2. Employees on current contracts – Your direct staff can be effective business developers. They have the most consistent contact with your customers; program managers especially meet with the customer on a regular basis. They can provide you with feedback on discussions related to customer needs and upcoming opportunities.
  3. Your customers – Having discussions about potential future acquisitions that fall within your core competencies is an effective way to generate leads for the pipeline.
  4. External contacts – Exploit the contacts in your business network to gather information on upcoming opportunities.

It is important to manage your business development activities by implementing and maintaining a pipeline to track the opportunities you may want to pursue and bid. As these opportunities progress through the business development lifecycle, the pipeline helps you track how they may have changed over time, how many of them resulted in bids, and how many of the bids resulted in a win.

You have an idea of where to find opportunities. When you have identified the agencies that might need what you sell, you have begun to build your pipeline. Now how do you organize and track these opportunities?

  1. Determine what the pipeline looks like

With all the opportunities you are identifying, you probably have multiple ideas. Some will make it through the bid stage (and hopefully awarded to you!), while others are going to end with a no-bid decision. The steps you use to track your prospects through to a bid/no bid decision and beyond show the progression of each opportunity through the pipeline. The stages most commonly used to track prospects through the pipeline are:

  • Long-term positioning – early in the process; involves identifying strategic markets, alliances, and objectives
  • Qualification  – gather customer requirements; identify and qualify specific opportunities
  • Development – develop capture strategies, capture and plans, and solution concept; identify key personnel and past performance
  • Proposal  – receive an RFP; develop the proposal, along with an oral presentation and/or demo if required
  • Post-submittal – answer clarification questions from the customer, revise the proposal, and conduct negotiations with the Government
  1. Calculate the Probability of Win (Pwin)

You want to give your management leaders an initial indication of the probability you will win a specific opportunity and give the financial team a weighting factor of the impact winning or losing the opportunity will have to the company’s bottom line. By making an honest assessment of your approach to bidding the opportunity against the competition and other factors, you can determine your Pwin. You can also use the average number of opportunities you win to calculate how many opportunities you need in each of the phases. These calculations provide an assessment of how healthy the pipeline is at each stage.

  1. Identify phase milestones

You have determined the opportunity phases and calculated your Pwin. Now you have to keep moving the opportunities through the difference phases to contract award. It is important to identify the factors or milestones that must be met to advance an opportunity to the next phase. These factors could include identifying potential teammates, getting budget approval, making a bid/no bid decision, calculating the price to win, or submitting the proposal. The important thing is to have a milestone at the end of each phase that opens the gate to move it to the next one. ,

  1. Continue to identify new leads

You always must be engaged in the activities that will identify and add new opportunities to your pipeline. Not everyone tasked with creating or contributing to the pipeline understand the various ways that exist to generate appropriate leads. What are some of the ways to identify leads to fill your pipeline?

  1. Current contracts – Protecting the work you already have in place is critical to any successful business. Track when your existing contracts are coming up for recompete, including all your current work whether you are the prime or a subcontractor on the programs. Stay in regular contact with the customers for your existing programs. You’ll learn how the customer views your company when preparing for a recompete, and you’ll also find out if any changes to the procurement are planned, such as a decision to categorize a recompete as a small business set-aside or to change the scope of work.
  2. Employees on current contracts – Your direct staff can be effective business developers. They have the most consistent contact with your customers; program managers especially meet with the customer on a regular basis. They can provide you with feedback on discussions related to customer needs and upcoming opportunities.
  3. Your customers – Having discussions about potential future acquisitions that fall within your core competencies is an effective way to generate leads for the pipeline.
  4. External contacts – Exploit the contacts in your business network to gather information on upcoming opportunities.
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