Developing Your 2012 Pipeline and Preparing For a Great Year of Winning Business

If you are anything like me, you’ve dealt with three challenges during the holidays – trying to keep from overindulging too much and gaining hard-to-shed pounds; fighting off a recurring cold; and trying to juggle family time with proposals that are due early to mid-January. By the way, I am officially envious if you faced no challenges or dealt with them through advance planning and orderly life. You are my hero.

This article is for everyone else who is not a planning maven, or like me, tends to pile the plate so high that no amount of planning is enough, no matter how hard I try. Now that the holiday hustle and bustle is over, and there is relatively smooth sailing through the frigid months ahead, it is time to slow down for a day or two and finally plan. Dust off your crystal ball, sharpen your pencils, and let’s talk about getting your company (and you) to that next level of growth.

My first question to you is, what does your opportunities pipeline look like for 2012? This question is relevant to everyone – not only the executives, but also capture and proposal staff, and even proposal consultants. Every business has to have a healthy pipeline to thrive. It is surprising, however, how many simply do not have one, have proposal staff that don’t know about its existence (if there is one), or have one but are skeptical about its quality and usefulness. I hear a common story that bespeaks of broken pipelines from small and large companies alike:

• “We only submitted a handful of proposals last year; we could be proud that we are picky but our win rate is so low.”
• “We cannot find opportunities that match our exact area of expertise, so our pipeline is small and won’t sustain our desired growth.”
• “We bid on everything – I think our bid-no-bid process is broken – and having everything under the sun in the pipeline simply doesn’t make sense.”
• “We keep going after bluebirds – we haven’t updated our pipeline in a while.”

Or better yet,

• “We don’t know what our Bid and Proposal budget is. Because no one has planned the pipeline for the year. Therefore, we have not decided how much investment is needed to win the opportunities that show up in the pipeline to reach our annual goal, while factoring in our win rate.”

If you recognize your company in the statements above, or have other pipeline challenges, it is time for change. You have to put business development higher on your priorities list, because a quality pipeline directly correlates to your future revenue. Or lack thereof. If you are a business owner, executive, or a consultant, make sure that you make this an investment year into your pipeline development. It will contribute to your peace of mind, and give you greater control over your destiny.

If you are working in a proposal department – wouldn’t it be nice to bring some degree of planning and order into your resources, time, and efforts? Perhaps, you would be compelled to act bolder and ask your management for more resources knowing that you are facing a churn-and-burn proposal stretch. Maybe you could dedicate more time to capture – even if you could do a little bit at a time while you are busy on other pursuits. All of it will lower your stress and contribute to your quality of life.

My second question is, have you looked at your industry’s trends? What does the immediate future hold for you and your company? For example, with the government moving more and more work to the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) vehicles and GSA and VA schedules, have you caught up and learned how to turn your company into a task order winning machine? What was the last time you have looked at the legislative changes impacting government contractors? What areas will continue to grow, like Cyber and Security fields – and what industries are bound to shrink with the budget crunch? How are your target customers changing their procurement behaviors given the state of the economy? How will you adjust the type of opportunities you are bidding on?

Also, what are your competitors now doing to beat you? Are they cutting costs – and if so, how are they doing it? Are they investing into new initiatives?

Answers to these questions will shape your pipeline even further.

These questions may seem irrelevant to proposal managers, coordinators, writers, editors, and other proposal professionals not as directly involved in strategy and planning – but I beg to differ. It will make you a better rounded professional if you understand what the industry is doing and how your company is likely to react – and you can adjust accordingly if there are certain risks on the horizon.

Which brings me to my third question – have you looked at your career and growth opportunities for 2012? What will you do to advance yourself, earn more money, and get greater job security, while helping your business? Will you stay in the same field or will you expand your abilities? In the business development field, there are always ways to command higher pay, be more in demand, and ultimately become more successful. On the other hand, many proposal professionals narrowly specialized in one field may find themselves in less secure positions.

To change this situation, it is important that you don’t succumb to burnout-induced complacency. Explore professions that are adjacent to your fields to increase your competitiveness and pay grade. There are natural career paths for certain professions. For example, proposal managers would greatly benefit from getting training in management, capture management, orals coaching if your customer set uses orals, technical writing, pricing, desktop publishing, and graphics skills – and could definitely use training in cost proposals development. Capture managers should expand their skills into proposal management, business development, price-to-win, and cost strategy. Technical writers should consider proposal coordination and proposal management as a career path if they are comfortable with higher levels of responsibility over the team. Proposal coordinators could venture into desktop publishing, graphics, and editing; or step up and becom e proposal managers.

For executives, investing into developing more versatile proposal teams means higher success rate in winning proposals, and ability to rotate personnel from one role to another on a variety of proposals, preventing team burnout. And, ultimately, getting a more skilled resource pool may mean a different type of pipeline where you can be more aggressive in pursuing opportunities.

Determine what training courses you are going to attend in 2012 to expand your capabilities, and definitely plan to make it to the APMP-NCA’s educational events.

Well, onward and upward, as some of my dear friends like to say. If you haven’t already asked yourself or your colleagues these three questions, it may be time that you do. Life may not go according to a plan, but it is better to have one anyway. Life without a plan is almost guaranteed to have much less spectacular results. I wish you a professionally and personally rewarding year!

Business Opportunity – The Power of Self Discipline For Abundance

A sense of self discipline is an elemental truth with the successful entrepreneur of a business opportunity. Entrepreneurial ventures constantly strive to work against false growth assumptions and presumed marketing difficulties.

Creative Solutions for Operational Difficulties:

Innovative business strategies can be employed to overcome limitations with product development and expansion. There should be renewed effort to look at participant markets with a new vision and positive prospects. Strong business applications can be developed by employing right and left brain skills like creativity with logic.

Products believed to have poor potential for growth in certain regions must be reexamined for better demand at other geographical pockets. Myopic observation of a market situation should be replaced with constructive measures guided by foresight and balance.

Potent Commercial Strategies:

Marketing efforts should aim to go beyond conventional boundaries and norms for product launch. Advance ideas that target customer group with multiple purchasing points can push up net sales numbers. Regular examination of functional model can help identify loopholes of failure with a business opportunity.

Advertisements need not necessarily focus on a weak primary selling point of a product over strong desired secondary values rendered. A business method that does accommodates focus and works for recurrent efforts at success must be employed.

Strong Business Development:

Possible solutions should be explored in the presence of overwhelming negative factors. Real business development is often seen to occur in the midst of severe competitiveness and difficult market conditions.

Non favorable economic situations have led to the initiation of high efficiency and strong schemes with business opportunity. Distribution and retail outlets of a product must be adequate in high demand regions.

A new product must be placed in appropriate sections and categories of retail outlets to grab essential customer attention. Marketing efforts can be initiated months ahead of actual product launch to achieve accelerated favoritism.

Advanced Entrepreneur Applications:

Business opportunity proprietors must have a personal self examination method that tracks learning curve and professional growth. Entrepreneurs often act upon to reduce friction with primary resources and functional activities that work for deliverables.

Business ventures that open up new avenues for growth with innovative products garner profits before competitors imitate the above business idea in the market.

There are different measures to evaluate the success of a business. A good business plan must be developed to monitor progress, success and development.

It is essential to consider goals, objectives and targets with a suitable business plan. Failure to achieve targets must be followed up with corrective measures to rectify negative factors at work.

Business Growth is in turn related to strategies and functional models practiced. Certain forms of business relationships can enhance potential for product expansion. Joint venture agreements can be high beneficial for certain configurations of business opportunity.

Residual Income Business – Developing a Culture of Communication

Residual income businesses are usually structured in similar ways. They are usually setup as network marketing organizations that allow people to build teams that will ultimately help the builder to make a substantial recurring monthly income.

The builder makes this income because they will be paid from the efforts of the people that they have put on their team. The allure of this type of business structure is that it theoretically should be a money maker for everyone because everyone can build a team.

It is a huge responsibility for the person that gets involved in this type of network marketing structure. Once a person has made the choice to join an organization that will allow them to build a team then that person has just made themselves the top boss of their own entity.

Some people that get involved in a home based operation this way often fail to see the importance of communicating with people they bring into their organization. Communication is very important because their success equals your success so it would behoove you as the top person in your entity to help them be a better top person in their entity.

Once a person has decided to join you in business then you should start telling them how you do things from day one. This could be anything from what marketing techniques you use and how often to what you do to fight off redundancy and boredom within your daily activities.

Developing a culture of constant, consistent, and useful information will endear you in the minds of your downline to the point where they will stay within your downline for longer and not fall victim to attrition.

Whenever you look at a residual income business structured in this manner always put yourself in the shoes of your potential downline to see how communication can flow smoothly to them and to their downline as well.

Getting Involved in Global Development

Australia is blessed with an incredible pool of talent and experience, across a broad
range of industries, and it is this expertise that could provide significant and
sustainable benefits into the communities where a development initiative is
targeted.

The challenge for many firms and individuals wishing to participate in development
activities is in understanding the intricacies of the process to secure involvement.
Activities through agencies such as the Australian Agency for International
Development (AusAID), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, are usually
let through a public, competitive tendering process. Adding to this challenge is the
fact that in almost all cases, the process is different for each agency.

Myth – that the development industry is different.

Well of course it is, as are all industries – different clients, different products,
different channels to market, different cultures, different environments, different
risks etc.

What makes it the same is the need to ensure client needs are met, if not exceeded,
and that products and services are as desired/needed, not imposed.

So how do you get involved? Is it luck? It is skill? Is it people, products or services?

All and more I am sure.

A key step often required is the need to demonstrate experience, understanding,
value, sustainability of strategies etc to those assessing a tender.

Reality Check – Successful tenders must be compliant to the requirements of the
request, must be price competitive, and need to find the balance between the
technical requirements of the response and the selling nature of the process.

One of the most important aspects of development initiatives is their ability to
produce sustainable outcomes into the communities within which the activities take
place. Consequently, learning from past activities assists to shape the style of
future initiatives. For firms or individuals seeking participation, understanding how
such learning could modify development approaches is a critical step in determining
the type and level of involvement to target.

Fact – learning from past activities continues to shape future interventions.

The Development Market Today

The following points are some key observations about the directions [approaches]
being taken in the provision of development assistance. These directions have the
potential to impact on any strategy organisations and individuals might adopt to
enter, maintain, or increase their involvement:

• Funds are being diverted from government aid agencies to other government
departments for sector-specific programs

• There is a continuing trend to devolve more decision making to the offshore
post of the donor country, away from the ‘central’ headquarters

• An increase in donor co-ordination and collaboration where, for example, the
USA [through USAID] and Australia [through AusAID] might align program
approaches to avoid duplication and other associated impediments, into a sector-
wide approach

• A trend seeing more assistance being aligned to foreign policy where, for
example, security and regional stability could influence aid disbursement

• Bilateral donors are opening their markets, allowing for individuals and
organisations to compete for once closed opportunities

• There is an increasing trend for a move to larger activities, such as sector-wide
approaches, as opposed to specific project interventions

• Scale and global reach is likely to be an important criteria in winning and
managing major programs

• Relationships and networks in country with donor representatives, recipient
governments, local organisations and development professionals are becoming
increasingly important.

Opportunity/Approach/Success Factors

Opportunities for involvement exist across a whole spectrum of activities, from
short-term review/assessment activities in Australia, to short-term offshore
assignments for individuals or teams, to long-term offshore assignments for
individuals or teams, to overall project management which might include technical
inputs as well as sub-contracting of activities.

Organisations such as The Development Executive Group (http://
http://www.developmentex.com) are a valuable resource for individuals and firms to
identify opportunities, individuals and potential partners. This Group provides a
range of free information and support services to individuals and companies,
including project information updates, a weekly development newsletter and
employment opportunities in the development sector.

An immediate key success factor is the consideration of which level of involvement
for a particular opportunity is likely to deliver the best result with the minimum of
risk – for the organisation, the client, the stakeholders and the recipients of
support.

Many of the larger activities, such as programs, facilities and sector-wide
approaches, often have sub-components that will be let out – meaning the overall
project managing firm could be ineligible to perform the services within a sub-
component. The key principles to securing sub-component involvement is often
identical to that required to secure the overall project, as there will be a call for
tender using the same or very similar process to that used by the funding agency.

Consequently, all levels of involvement in the development arena are likely at some
point to require interested organisations/individuals to participate in a competitive
tendering round. This is often the case regardless of the size of the resultant
budget.

Reality Check – Tendering efficiency and effectiveness remains critical.

Tendering skills alone, while critical, are not the sole success factor – in fact
tendering well in the absence of other key activities/initiatives may prove
insufficient. Key considerations for success, in addition to compiling a winning
tender include:

• Having the winning product – the team, the approach, the methodology, and
the response to the requirements of a tender

• Ensuring advance positioning – research, preparation, resources

• Maintaining adequate promotion – often the key here is relationships, and
certainly past achievements

• Being in the right place – knowing the clients and stakeholders and having an
international presence

• Offering the right price – must be competitive and offering value for money.

The tender response is often the most challenging aspect (apart from
implementation of course), addressed by ensuring appropriate preparation and
analysis is conducted in advance. The tendering timeframe usually falls within a 4 –
8 week period and generally responses would be required to address key criteria
including the team, approach and methodology, management, and price.

Reality Check – Preparation must commence prior to the public call for tender if a
realistic chance of success is to be expected.

These thoughts are by no means exhaustive, though they do cover some core
principles relevant to successful business development and tendering approaches.

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