Capture Planning: How to Build a Strong Proposal Pipeline

Kathryn Bennett
Kathryn Bennett

Good proposal management isn’t just about the proposal itself. It’s also about the work put in before the request for proposal (RFP) arrives. And that’s where capture planning comes in.

It’s all about proactively seeking your target, instead of waiting for it to come to you. This strategy builds your proposal pipeline, optimizes your RFP process, and improves your company’s win rate. But only if you use it consistently.

Keep scrolling to learn what capture planning is, how to proactively track down opportunities, and better your odds of winning.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  1. What is Capture Planning?
  2. How to Proactively Track Down Bids: Building a Proposal Pipeline
  3. Take Aim: Four Sales Strategies to Better Your Odds of Winning

What is Capture Planning?

Capture planning is a strategy that companies use to identify new sales opportunities and subsequently close more business through proposals. These responsibilities typically fall to business development or sales teams, who have expertise gathering the market intelligence required for capture planning. However, some large companies do hire dedicated capture manager roles.

According to Shipley Associates, capture management requires an action-oriented plan. Elements of a good capture plan include:

  • A thorough opportunity assessment
  • Competitive analysis
  • Team bandwidth analysis
  • Your likelihood of success vs. the cost

Basically, it incorporates proactive strategies into your RFP process that positions your team to win more bids. As a result of capture planning, many teams build a more predictable stream of sales opportunities that involve proposals.

“Ask yourself, What if we knew about this RFP six months, 12 months, 18 months in advance? How would that benefit your entire organization?”
Mookie Kaushal, Sales Engineering Team Lead
GovWin IQ at Deltek

How to Proactively Track Down Bids: Building a Proposal Pipeline

We hear a lot about the importance of a sales pipeline, but RFP teams can be just as proactive building healthy proposal pipelines.

There are four key indicators you can monitor to help you build a pipeline of proposal leads for your business. You can find this information yourself, through open records requirements, or you can use a system like GovWin IQ at Deltek to source key data (explained below) to build a robust pipeline of proposals.

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Sync Public Budget Cycles to RFP Opportunities

Budgeting phases present new business opportunities—and if you work in the public sector, government transparency may afford you some knowledge about when those budget cycles happen.

Submit proactive proposals at the start of each new budgeting cycle to show prospects how your business can help them in the coming quarter.

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Use Contract Renewals as Opportunities to Act Now

Contract renewals also present huge opportunities to displace an incumbent with a better proposal. While not all government agencies are legally required to make contract renewals publicly available, you can submit a request through the Freedom of Information Act if you’re based in North America.

Using a tool like Deltek, look at active public sector contracts to see what’s coming up for renewal in 12 to 18 months. It’ll prepare you to make a bid before your company receives a request.

Beyond the public sector side, other websites and tools to find bids include:

Use Competitor Intelligence to Refine Bid Pricing

Knowing your competitor is critical to positioning answers in your bid.

When you know a competitors’ pricing, product, and positioning, you can help protect your margins by not leaving money on the table. On the flip side, you’ll also be in a better position to win if you don’t overbid as well.

Luckily, any bids that are publicly available can be found in GovWin IQ, including the final contract with pricing. So even if you’re not bidding on public sector contracts, your competitors might be. Go collect any competitor pricing information you can to refine your pricing strategy.

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Be Aware of Technology Advancements in Your Market

A lot can happen during an incumbent’s contract–specifically, your technology can outpace that of your competition.

When you know a contract is coming up for renewal, take a look at your competitors’ tech offerings and determine whether or not you can win based on tech requirements you can fulfill.

Once you’ve followed these strategies to build your pipeline of potential opportunities, it’s time to weigh the risks vs. opportunity of chasing each bid. Read on for advice that’ll improve your chances of winning.


Take Aim: Four Sales Strategies to Better Your Odds of Winning

Proposals take up a lot of time and resources: 23 hours on average for every RFP response. So it’s crucial to use your team’s bandwidth strategically, by only chasing the bids that you have a good chance of winning.

Before working the opportunities in your pipeline, Heath Sanders, CEO, Harbor View Business Associates recommends asking yourself, what other products and services like yours exist? And who are your competitors?

Researching the competitive landscape is a crucial first step in capture planning. Once you have answers to the competitive questions above, use the four steps below to build your capture planning process.

“As you collect data and understand where you’ve won, you’ll be able to dial in your metrics and gain more certainty.”
Heath Sanders, CEO
Harbor View Business Associates
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1. Determine Company Cost to Submit an RFP

Every RFP response costs your company money. Before you’re able to determine which RFPs are worth responding to, you need to gather some information about the resources you’re spending on each.

Costs associated with RFP responses are:

  • Software licensing
  • Printing and shipping costs
  • Meeting and walkthrough time
  • Writing time from subject matter experts
  • In-house or outsourced legal counsel

Add up these costs to find out how much your business spends on the average RFP response. The formula isn’t perfect, but it will give you a baseline to start.

2. Assess the Risk of the RFP

Every RFP comes with risks—ones associated with responding to the proposal and ones associated with winning the business. That’s why the majority of RFP teams assess whether they have the bandwidth and resources to create a high-quality proposal and support the client long-term.

Below are some questions to ask yourself about the risk factors.

Key risk factors to assess:

  • RFP due date: Is there plenty of time to respond to the RFP?
  • Team bandwidth: Will responding to the RFP have a little or significant impact on internal resources?
  • Requirement influence: Did your business shape the requirements of the RFP or did someone else?
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3. Analyze the Value of the RFP

Revenue is a key metric for deciding the value of an RFP, but it’s not the only factor. You’ll need to evaluate other metrics to understand the value behind the proposal, including client relationship and team effort level, to gain a more holistic view of the RFP value to your business.

Key opportunity factors to consider:

  • Corporate direction: How much does this business align with your strategic plan?
  • Client rapport: How well do you know the client?
  • Resourcing: Can you reuse existing RFP content?
  • Requirements: How well can your business fulfill the proposal requirements?
  • Competition: How many competitors are vying for this business?
  • Ability to expand: Is there a likelihood of expanding your business with this client?

4. Score Each Opportunity and Risk Factor

Every opportunity and risk factor should be weighted according to your business priorities. Assign a numeric value to each based on importance, and place them on an X-Y axis.

Weighting these factors across a grid reveals a bird’s eye view of which opportunities you’re likely to win—and which you should avoid spending precious resources on. Focusing on the bids with the highest chances of winning will be a better return-on-investment for your company.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to score opportunities using this quadrant. Heath recommends bidding on RFPs that land in the upper-left quadrant of your grid and carefully consider ones that don’t.

“Over time, you’ll be able to dial in your metrics and gain more certainty about that green [go ahead] box,” explains Heath. “I’ve seen companies that, if they score within that box, they have a 75% or greater chance of winning that RFP.”

Research shows 72% of teams use a go/no-go decision template to assess the likelihood of winning for every proposal. Try Loopio’s free template if you don’t already use a go/no-go decision template for RFPs.


Watch the full webinar for more capture planning insights.

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