Opportunity/Capture Team Selection and Management

Opportunity/capture team selection and management are a matter of roles rather than position. Opportunity/capture teams range from a part-time person to a group of exclusively assigned individuals. Identify and commit individuals who have the skills, knowledge, availability, and interest to fulfill their assigned roles

Introduction

How an opportunity/capture team is made up varies by opportunity, and it depends on the customer’s issues and motivators, your competitive position with the customer, the technology, and the individual experience with the customer. Larger, more complex opportunities usually require larger teams.

Engage opportunity/capture team members with the right skills, knowledge, and availability. If you anticipate numerous meetings with a customer, then consider interpersonal and presentation skills. If you need to integrate or adapt new technology, consider technical knowledge.

Although overcommitted individuals are often the best qualified, realistically consider whether they have time within your schedule. If availability is the primary qualification, keep looking or revisit the pursuit decision.

Best Practices

1. Select a skilled Opportunity/Capture Manager over an experienced Technical or Customer Manager.

The strongest and most successful opportunity/capture plans are based on detailed, intimate knowledge and understanding of the customer. The only way to develop this skill is by interacting with the customer—not by doing web research, no matter how sophisticated.

International opportunity/capture efforts need to be led by someone who is very familiar with (or, ideally, native to) the customer’s culture. If your organization intends to sell significant volume through international offices, consider individuals’ capture capabilities by office. Enhance opportunity/capture skills through training, coaching, and job aids.

Opportunity/capture skills are paramount when selecting an Opportunity/Capture Manager, so distinguish between skills and knowledge. A person with opportunity/capture skills can develop technical and customer knowledge or team with people who offer these assets. A person with deep technical and customer knowledge might never develop the needed interpersonal opportunity/capture skills.

Although sales and opportunity/capture professionals must both be persuasive, the ideal opportunity/capture professionals usually possess the skills summarized in Figure 1:

Essential Skill

Demonstration of Skill

Leadership

Builds a common vision with the internal opportunity/capture team, customers, and teaming partners

Facilitation

Initiates and encourages collaborative team discussions

Strategy development

Builds customer-focused strategies and tactics

Motivation

Creates a winning environment

Data analysis

Turns data into useful intelligence

Management

Keeps the team focused on tasks, schedules, and standards

Persuasion

Convinces senior management to commit sufficient skills and resources

Figure 1. Essential Skills for an Opportunity/Capture Manager. Technical knowledge is a plus, but it’s not paramount. Assign Opportunity/Capture Managers who can demonstrate or develop these essential skills.

In addition to direct sales tasks, an Opportunity/Capture Manager manages the team’s opportunity/capture activities, including:

  • Intelligence collection and analysis
  • Strategy development and implementation
  • Customer contact and positioning activities
  • Teaming identification and management
  • Establishing the price-to-win
  • Proposal initiation, planning, and review
  • Solution development, testing, and communication
  • Post-submittal negotiation and closure
  • Program initiation, start-up, and extension

2. Define the three core opportunity/capture team roles.

The core opportunity/capture roles for the opportunity/capture process are:

  • Opportunity/Capture Manager
  • Bid Manager
  • Program or Project Manager

Position

Key Responsibilities

Opportunity/Capture Manager

  • Manages the opportunity from the pursuit decision through program start-up
  • Develops the opportunity/capture plan and strategy
  • Gathers and updates intelligence on competitive positioning
  • Develops and owns the opportunity/capture strategy throughout the opportunity lifecycle
  • Builds and sustains customer relationships
  • Plans and manages the customer interface
  • Defines and manages the opportunity/capture budget
  • Leads competitive analysis and price-to-win analysis and establishes team cost targets
  • Oversees transition of opportunity/capture plans into the proposal management plan
  • Mentors the proposal core team on win strategy and solution
  • Develops the first draft of the executive summary
  • Instigates and schedules gate decisions and reviews
  • Supports reviews
  • Drives or contributes to gate decisions
  • Briefs senior management at gate decisions/milestone reviews
  • Program or Project Manager

  • Participates in or guides solution development, including technical issues, tradeoff analysis, and costing approach
  • Positions organization and solution with customer in coordination with the Opportunity/Capture Manager
  • Develops conceptual program team and management approach and resolves program issues
  • Leads program planning: defines delivery team organization, skills, staffing levels, and timing. WBS: program schedule, preliminary teaming, subcontracting, and vendor selection
  • Supports intelligence collection and analysis, strategy development, and implementation
  • Validates opportunity/capture and proposal solution for practical execution in managing the program
  • Bid Manager

     

  • Develops the proposal strategy, themes, and discriminators that align with the opportunity/capture strategy
  • Develops and implements the proposal management plan
  • Focuses on producing a winning document and/or presentation
  • Figure 2. Refine the Roles and Responsibilities for These Positions for Your Organization. Consider the size and market value of the opportunity, as well as the skills of the people.

    3. Identify an integrated opportunity/capture team with the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to support the opportunity.

    Working with the core opportunity/capture team members and selected Senior Managers, identify the key resources needed to form an integrated core team of functional experts as shown in Figure 3.

    Strive to build the best team possible from across your organization. Don’t settle for individuals who are available. Consider the skills and competence required for each team member, and negotiate for the right resources.

    Figure 3. Involve Relevant Departments.
    Figure 3. Involve Relevant Departments. Opportunity/capture activities are not a solo undertaking. Seek broad participation, incorporating relevant departments whose expertise is needed to address evolving customer interests or concerns.

    Train the opportunity/capture team members based on their roles and level of experience. Consider the role of senior management, opportunity/capture team management, and team contributors. To be effective, members need to understand their roles and responsibilities and develop the skills needed to complete assigned tasks. In a complex sale, interactions with the customer must be aligned. If they aren’t, customers will doubt what you say.

    Assign individuals based on their skills

    Typically, the Opportunity/Capture Manager will match appropriately skilled staff to the varying demands of opportunity/capture. Criteria may include:

    • The task-based and behavioral skills need for the opportunity and customer
    • The level of complexity and risk of the opportunity
    • The potential revenue value of the opportunity
    • Individuals’ knowledge of the customer and customer’s domain
    • The complexity and risk of the response

    Involve your senior leadership sponsor in opportunity-specific training to signal the importance of this opportunity/capture effort and foster continued member buy-in. If sponsors can’t attend the entire session, ask them to endorse the process, emphasize the importance of the opportunity, contribute to the strategy, and conduct an out-brief at the conclusion of or immediately after the training.

    If your Senior Managers can’t differentiate an effective opportunity/capture plan from a poor one, they need training. Having worked for the customer’s organization is helpful but not sufficient to make them persuasive.

    Training alone is insufficient to develop competent Opportunity/Capture, Program, and Bid Managers; they also need coaching and experience. Adapt how you train contributors based on their assigned roles and experience. Assess contributors’ interpersonal communications and collaboration skills before asking them to interact with customers. Essential skills may include the following:

    • Development of effective relationships with customers, teammates, and internal workers
    • Response planning and management
    • Proposal development, including writing content, illustrating concepts, and substantiating benefits
    • Presentation and/or oral skills
    • Contract development and negotiation

    Define training and development plans and track progress against the plans

    Where team members lack the required skill level, develop a training and development plan for the individuals and/or the team, focusing on filling the skills gaps. A typical training and development plan may include the following elements:

    • Team members and their assigned roles for the opportunity
    • Critical skills required to perform the role assigned
    • Analysis of current skills
    • Analysis of skills needed with a given timeframe
    • How these skills can be developed
    • The ability to capture and track the development of individual skills needed within the teams

    Provide training and development opportunities

    Various strategies are available for executing a training and development plan. This could be training the whole team or requiring a team member to participate in a specific training program. In addition, consider how the training and development are structured; these may need to be different for those routinely involved in opportunity/capture and proposal responses versus individuals engaged occasionally in these activities.

    Assess training and development effectiveness

    Having provided training and development opportunities, the Opportunity/Capture Manager and/or Bid Manager should review the impact of the investment to ensure that the new skills have been acquired and are being deployed. The ongoing assessment of individual skills and appropriateness for the role required is frequently carried out through seeking feedback both from the individual and colleagues and by reviewing the output of the task(s) required using objective quality measures.

    4. Persuade senior leadership to commit adequate resources.

    Every Opportunity/Capture Manager needs a senior leadership sponsor. If one hasn’t emerged naturally, seek and cultivate a sponsor. An opportunity/capture team without a sponsor is usually wasting resources.

    Identify the team and resources needed to capture the opportunity, and persuade senior leadership that your request is necessary, appropriate, and justifiable. Your objective is to position the customer to prefer your organization and solution. You need the personnel and resources to complete specific action and contact plan tasks. Justify the opportunity/capture budget based on potential revenue, profitability, and the win probability.

    Anticipate objections to team assignments and be poised to offer solutions. The best people often have prior commitments. Seek work-arounds such as alternate schedules, parallel schedules, or advisory roles.

    Place key individuals from subcontractor organizations into advisory roles for adding opportunity/capture resources and reducing the opportunity/capture costs, demonstrating to the customer that your subcontractors are as important and as qualified as you claim.

    Suggest other sources of funds. Identify synergies with other programs or opportunity/capture activities.

    5. Hold a kickoff meeting to begin the opportunity/capture process.

    Hold a capture kickoff meeting to demonstrate senior management support; empower the Opportunity/Capture Manager and motivate the team to win the opportunity. Although all kickoff meetings are motivational, opportunity/capture kickoff meetings tend to be more collaborative and smaller than proposal kickoff meetings.

    When planning an opportunity/capture kickoff, consider the following points:

    • Invite key contributors, their immediate managers, and teaming partners if your teaming agreement is complete.
    • Establish a competent, professional tone that inspires confidence in the Opportunity/Capture Manager, Program Manager, and Bid Manager.
    • Ask your senior management sponsor to open the kickoff meeting, validate the importance of the opportunity, and state what the win means to the participants and their managers. Managers of the team members should stay at least until the activity priorities are discussed and agreed on.
    • Review and clarify roles, authority, and responsibility.
    • Be realistic about problems and challenges. Be proactive in finding solutions, defining actions, and establishing responsibilities.
    • Collaboratively solve problems. Encourage participants to raise issues and recommend solutions.
    • Include vital contributors virtually if they can’t attend in person. Observe the additional ground rules for virtual meetings.

    An example of a basic opportunity/capture kickoff agenda is shown in Figure 4:

    Time

    Person

    Topic

    5 minutes

    Opportunity/Capture Manager

    Welcome and introductions

    5 minutes

    Senior Sponsor

    Review importance and priorities

    10 minutes

    Opportunity/Capture Manager

    Overview the opportunity

    5 minutes

    Opportunity/Capture Manager

    Discuss the process, roles, responsibilities, expectations, and rewards

    20 minutes

    Opportunity/Capture Manager

    Review current opportunity/capture plan actions

    20 minutes

    Opportunity/Capture Manager

    Make action assignments and set the schedule; overview opportunity-specific information availability, access guidelines, and security arrangements

    Figure 4. Example Opportunity/Capture Kickoff Agenda. Incorporate these topics and approximate the time required for each. As the complexity of the opportunity increases, extend the time to overview the opportunity, review the opportunity/capture plan, and discuss assignments.

    6. Delegate opportunity/capture actions with clear expectations, schedules, target completion dates, and reporting.

    On major opportunity/capture efforts, individual team members, not the Opportunity/Capture Manager, complete most tasks. On smaller efforts, Opportunity/Capture Managers complete more of the tasks, and their role increasingly resembles that of a Sales or Account Manager.

    For each action, define and clarify:

    • Objective
    • Assigned individual
    • Deliverable, charge number, time allocation, and expected outcome
    • Expected detail
    • Key issues
    • Due date
    • Interim checkpoints or milestones
    • Linked tasks requiring coordination
    • Dependent tasks

    Set completion dates for every task and all actions. Schedule checkpoints to communicate progress, seek management input, and gain management support. Schedule reviews, such as a competitor review, to improve the quality of your opportunity/capture efforts. Update task schedules as the opportunity progresses.

    Synchronize opportunity/capture efforts with the customer’s buying process and schedule.

    7. Keep senior management informed and involved, and never surprise your management sponsor.

    Opportunity/Capture Managers are an extension of management and are expected to keep management informed. Follow protocol when addressing sensitive issues.

    Discuss sensitive issues with your management sponsor. A surprised and embarrassed sponsor might cease support.

    Discuss if and how sensitive issues will be addressed in gate reviews or other meetings. Many issues are best handled in one-on-one discussions.

    Consider the authority, accessibility, schedule constraints, and individual hot buttons of senior management. Identify and discuss tasks that will require hands-on management assistance.

    Task Senior Managers to meet with customers and potential teaming partners. Seek management help to secure resources, compel indirect reports to complete tasks, and approve budgets.

    8. Evaluate opportunity/capture success.

    The primary measure of opportunity/capture success is the number and value of quality contracts won. Measuring interim success is more difficult.

    Balance the effort to prepare a capture plan, and keep it current.

    Define which elements will be reviewed at each gate review and the expected degree of completion of that element.

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