Take a Critical Assessment of the Opportunity

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity. Except, of course, pursuing the WRONG opportunity – that is a far costlier mistake.

Recognizing which opportunities to pass on is as important a skill as any in your business development (BD) approach. Unfortunately, it is common practice to sift through opportunity announcements looking for requirement descriptions that most closely align with organizational capabilities. I say “unfortunate” because this path usually leads to writing many proposals pursuing opportunities with a low probability of win (Pwin). Without a proper assessment, Pwin is unknown (at best) AND often falsely assumed to be high based solely on the alignment of organizational ability with the published requirements. Ability to meet the job requirements is where many assessments start, but it’s much more important to know IF you can win.There are several key elements to effective opportunity assessment:

  • Customer: How well do I know the customer? How well does the customer know me? Have I worked for this customer before? What is the customer’s attitude toward me? What would it take to optimize my relationship with the customer in terms of effort and time?
  • Competition: Who is it? What is their relationship with the customer (e.g., an incumbent supplier?) How do we compare technically? How do we compare in the customer’s mind? What would it take to optimize my position with respect to the competition in terms of effort and time?
  • Business Aspects: What is the contract type (Fixed Price? Cost Reimbursable? Other?) What are the expected terms and conditions? Are there small business considerations? What are the management requirements? Is there a cost, schedule, and/or performance risk implicit in the requirements? Are there any factors subject to negotiation? What would it take in terms of time and effort to optimize my ability to meet all contractual requirements?
  • Time: Given the above, is there enough time prior to solicitation release for us to progress to an optimal state in each area? This is critical.

Note the absence of any mention of technical ability – EXCEPT in the competitive assessment. All other things being equal, you must do the job as well, or better than, your competition to win. This is not the same as being perfect in every aspect of the job. For some jobs, “good” is good enough. For others, even “perfect” will not overcome your competition’s relationship or incumbency with the customer.

Typically, many vital pieces of information are unavailable when the opportunity is identified and must be researched. Measure your progress and update your assessment as you move toward solicitation release. Is the key information firming up your understanding of your Pwin? Is your prognosis of being in a solid win position still favorable? If not, use your assessment updates to modify, intensify, or abandon your pursuit of the opportunity.

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