Three ways to turn pursuits into captures

I’ve never liked talking about “pursuit” in Business Development. To me, pursuit means following and not catching up. I’d rather prepare teams for capture than for pursuit.

So I’ve been thinking about what makes the difference. I’m going to explore three changes you can make that will help you shift from pursuing opportunities to capturing them.

Change no. 1: Be on the front foot

Businesses often tell us that they know an opportunity is coming up, but then they postpone giving that opportunity the focus it needs until the RFP is about to be released – or has been released – missing the chance of engaging with the customer and influencing their specifications and expectations.

We all have to deal with competing priorities, and it seems like a given that the one with the looming deadline gets most of the attention. How can you change this mindset?

Try ranking the items on your to-do list by a different set of criteria. Think about how important to your business that future opportunity is, and understand that it also presents a looming deadline – the point at which the prospective customer makes up their mind about what they want, based on who has been talking to them. And if that’s not you, it’s your competitors.

Walking alongside the customer to shape their requirement is far better than running after a requirement they have already determined.

Understanding the customer’s buying cycle, and where they currently are in that cycle, will prepare you to step forward and engage with them while they are still open to your suggestions about the different paths they might travel.

Change no. 2: Don’t let the opportunity lead you astray

Turning Pursuits into Captures-1 Michael Jackson Thriller

There’s nothing a proposal team hates more than a zombie bid – a bid that keeps going even after it’s dead. An opportunity that has gathered momentum and advocates who have invested so much time in it that they imagine they can keep it alive, while others can see that there’s no real chance of success.

As well as undermining morale, continuing to invest effort in zombie bids takes the whole team’s attention and energy away from the opportunities that you are well-positioned to win.

It can be hard to resist the advocate’s insistence that “they’re still talking to us; we can win this”. What’s the change you need?

Get rational: offer the team a decision-making process that’s based on more than gut feeling. Calculate your Pwin (probability of winning) by scrutinising the opportunity for a series of defined indicators.

There are two groups of indicators:

  • Those that show you are/are not in a positive position to win
  • Those that confirm that this is/is not an opportunity that will enhance your business

Zombie bids invariably fail on both counts: you are unlikely to win, and it won’t be good for your business if you do. If you stop trailing after the zombies, you can put your energy where it needs to be, in the customers and opportunities that align with your business goals.

Change no. 3: Be quiet until they trust you

Turning Pursuits into Captures (1)

So you’ve engaged with the prospective customer early in the buying cycle. They have told you what their problem is and what they want to achieve through an upcoming procurement. That’s great, you are on the right track, but there are pitfalls ahead.

One trap that many businesses fall into is that they go straight into solutioning. Their eyes light up with real passion as they envisage making the best possible product that includes functions the prospect hasn’t even thought of yet.

They are running ahead of the customer and may find when they stop that the customer has not gone with them. Is there a way you change this outcome, and not lose the passion?

Subject the information you have gathered to some deep strategic thinking. Understand the prospect’s vision as well as their requirements, and the hot buttons that will drive their choice of provider. Then you can start building a solution that incorporates your understanding by strategically focusing on the aspects that will hold most appeal for the customer.

By showing that you are listening to their needs, and focused on meeting them, you will build a relationship in which the customer trusts you to have their goals at heart. Once you have captured their trust, you no longer need to pursue them, they will choose to work with you.

When you use these changes to set new habits for your team, you can progress from pursuing many opportunities to capturing the ones that matter.

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