One Size Doesn’t Fit All!

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A new acquaintance recently asked, “What do you do?” I responded by introducing myself as a ‘Pursuit and Capture Practitioner’. This left my new friend puzzled. To the uninitiated, I suspect ‘Pursuit’ recalls American cop car chases (‘10:4 in hot pursuit’) and ‘Capture’ as military exploits to seize enemy strongholds. Sensing confusion building, I quickly opted for a simpler explanation: “Helping our sales teams win more business.” From their body language, I saw this explanation made more sense. We both relaxed and continued our introductions.

Upon reflection, perhaps confusion was a natural response. Using two powerful nouns with strong associations with police and military is not helpful for a profession that prides itself on winning business using words and persuasion.

When asked to describe my experience of Capture for Bidding Quarterly, my response is that Capture is undoubtably the most exciting and rewarding of the many steps necessary to acquire a new customer. But why? Is it because it’s early in the pursuit cycle and everyone likes to be involved in setting the strategy?

My excitement comes from witnessing the emergence of a competitive sales strategy, seemingly from an assortment of unconnected inputs, facts and opinions. When you strike Capture gold, this can be a beautiful experience to be part of. Knowing that, as a team, you’ve discovered things about your organisation that no other bidder can offer is both energising and exhilarating.

Positivity and togetherness rain down on the pursuit team after a successful Capture session. Deeper relationships and respect between the Capture Team and Sales Teams are formed as both see each other as worthy contributors towards a common goal. Perhaps this is our industry’s equivalent of a one-two pass round your opponent before scoring the winning goal or jamming out a catchy tune with your band mates that goes on to be the band’s defining No. 1 single.

But how best to describe successful Capture? Increased win rates, pursuit team efficiency, shorter pursuit cycles, closer alignment to the prospect’s desired outcomes? While these are important measures of successful Capture, the answer doesn’t simply lie here.

Capture can only be considered truly successful if it operates in complete harmony with the organisation it seeks to serve. Harmony means recognition of Capture as a highly valued (and demanded) activity by the sales organisation. It requires the participation of the organisation’s most creative and innovative thought leaders in developing Capture strategies that unlock real competitive advantage. It also includes support functions in strategy discussions and development. Support functions are frequently underplayed as ‘just’ back office support, but they (like proposal teams) are subject matter experts. Delivery teams also enrich the strategy by seeding key differentiators and client proof points and are instrumental in persuading the prospect long after the initial sales pitch is over.

Approaches to Capture vary greatly internationally, by industry sector and by maturity of business development practices. Variations range from arbitrary strategy-based conversations, to discretionary, one-off win strategy workshops, to robust Capture procedures integrated into proposal development cycles facilitated by dedicated Capture Managers.

But what is right for one organisation isn’t necessary effective for another. It is key to develop a form of Capture that reflects your organisation’s appetite to strategise relevant to deal size, complexity and the competitive landscape in which your organisation operates.

If you are introducing capture to your organisation for the first time or transforming your existing capture processes for greater effectiveness, these points may be useful in developing a unique capture style:

  1. Consider assessing your business development practices to identify optimal capture techniques, skills and process development ideas. The Business Development Institute International (BD-Institute) provides a useful Capability Maturity Model® for Business Development baselining.
  2. How does your organisation harness its competitive edge? Who are the creative thinkers, the shakers and movers in your organisation who can enrich a sales strategy? How can you design a capture process that frequently taps into their collective intellect without disrupting their day to day job?
  3. Assess how to crowd-source account and competitor intelligence. These inputs open up valuable new thinking and approaches beyond the standard sales plays.
  4. Harness ‘the art of the possible’. Capture sessions excel when everyone feels safe and encouraged into contributing to the strategy discussion. Think the unthinkable. Where organisations operate in highly competitive markets, any competitive advantage (however small) can help increase your overall probability of success.
  5. Consider capture as a practice and develop an identity around it. If possible, brand it with a memorable name, so that people recognise and promote it.
  6. Find supporters within the sales team who can act as your advocates on the value of capture and help drive the word to doubtful colleagues. Look for an executive sponsor too, someone to push down their support while you drive the reputation of capture up the organisation
  7. Ensure capture output is conclusive with a defined direction. Consider formalising your sales approach using strategies applied to complex enterprise selling (Frontal, Fragmented, Flanking, Develop and Defensive). A good article on this approach is published by Tony J. Hughes, IQ Global

This article was written by Steve Webster.

Steve is a Pursuit and Capture Practitioner working in the technology and services sector. He is passionate about helping individuals unlock their inner potential and is currently a student at the Henley Business School undertaking a post-graduate certificate in Coaching.

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