Let’s say you’ve successfully tackled the significant hurdle of getting in front of the Government customer. Now what? At that moment you move from elation to dread… albeit, short-lived, hopefully. Relax, this is the easy part, and addressing these five questions can help any Capture Executive (Capture Manager) make it even easier.
Status of the Project
First, it is essential to ask how the current project is going. You can learn a lot about the customer’s pain points and business challenges simply by asking this question. Expand on it if you are given the opportunity. For example, how are they doing in terms of personnel? Why is (or isn’t) the expertise being provided aligning with what they need? Don’t set yourself up for a simple one-word answer. And if you do end up with one, however, take the opportunity to expand on the original question and ask related follow-ups.
How Is the Incumbent Doing
Secondly, find out how the incumbent is doing at managing the project. Notice, you’re not directly asking them if they’re happy with the incumbent, that’s a slippery slope for any Government customer. Be careful in how you ask this, you don’t want them to perceive that you’re trying to push them into bad-mouthing their contractor. And you’re not, you’re just trying to identify useful pieces of information that can leverage your position and strengthen your proposal.
Third, find out if there’s anything they would do differently. If you weren’t able to pull this information from them in the initial question, be more direct. It’s less related to how they feel about the project, and more related to operational changes. Useful answers that can be of benefit for that customer-centric solution you’re developing. If there are things they would do differently, follow up with questions around how they would see such changes impacting/benefiting the end-result. Is it more cost-effective, increased operational longevity, broader applicability. etc.? Remember, this question is driven more about finding out the ‘why’ as it is the ‘what.’
Which Companies Do They Like
Next, ask them which companies doing business around the Agency or Command they like. If you’ve done your homework, you already know who the incumbent is, and likely, what other companies make up your direct competition. If they’re willing to divulge company preferences, this can help you in a number of ways. Perhaps you’re not strategically positioned to be the Prime contractor on the opportunity. This information can provide you the names of some potential teaming partners who could be advantageous to the award outcome.
Also, if they’re companies you’re familiar with, identify any nuances that they bring to their customers. Is it their management approach? Their pricing strategy? Their software platforms, or product technology? Do they make really excellent coffee? Whatever it is – there is something that causes that Government customer to associate that company in positivity. You want in on that.
Do They Know of You
Lastly, and this probably goes without saying, but ask them if they know who your company is and what it is you do. Be prepared for the ‘I’ve never heard of you’ response. That’s ok! Expect that, don’t flinch when they say it, and use it as your opportunity to quickly and succinctly sell yourself. If your company has provided a similar product or service to an agency that’s relatable, tell them so. You will be lucky if you have their ear for five minutes when you ask this question, so capture their attention in less than two. Most importantly, the pitch isn’t about you – it’s about what you can do for them.
How Can You Prepare Yourself?
Perhaps you just had that important meeting last week, and perhaps you didn’t ask any of these questions… Outside of waiting for our next blog on this topic, what can you do to ready yourself for this meeting? The answer: Use an optimal Capture Executive/Pipeline Management Software that suggests these questions for you and your Capture Executive Team. Plug in your answers, and receive more questions for the next meeting.
It sounds simple, it is simple, and it is a simple way to improve your Capture Management Process from the start. Remember, this is just a starting point when it comes to asking questions. There are hundreds of leading and informational questions that you need to ask everybody in the Command and surrounding community so you can better understand what they are looking for, and what they are not.