The 5 Phases of Business Development

The Business Development (BD) process in Government Contracting relates to the identification of suitable contracts and preparation of proposals in response to Government solicitations for these contracts. It typically consists of five separate and distinct phases:

  1. The PositioningPhase (tied to the company’s Business and Strategic Plans), where the company decides on the direction they want to take to increase market share. The PursuitPhase, where the overall Marketing Plan is developed and then separated into the accounts that will identify individual targets to pursue
  2. The ProposalPhase, where the response to the RFP is prepared
  3. The Post SubmissionPhase, where clarifications, proposal modifications and negotiations (if any) are prepared
  4. The OperationsPhase, where the contract is mobilized for Phase-in, if won – or lessons learned from the Government’s debrief is collected, if lost

One important aspect of the BD process is that it is most effective as a closed-loop system, in which the Operations Phase information feeds into the Positioning Phase for an ever-changing system that quickly reacts to changing conditions in the marketplace. This is often referred to as the BD Lifecycle.

Many separate workgroups or business units support the BD process, from corporate management to the operations staff to production personnel and administrative staff inside the company, to third party Subject Matter Experts (SME) or professional proposal preparation personnel like those provided by third party consulting firms.

Positioning PhaseSome of the tasks performed during the major phases of the BD process include:

  • Defining the company’s direction
  • Using data from the Marketing Plan, establish target selection criteria and prioritize targets
  • Forming strategic alliances with other companies that can make good teaming partners that will lead to expanding the company’s resume in new markets
  • Analyze the gaps between where the company is today, and where the company needs to be, what it needs to have, etc to meet the projected goals
  • Establish the various Lines of Business (LOB) and develop the account plans (by customer, region, etc) to support the LOBs
  • Establish the necessary overall Bid and Proposal (B&P) budgets to support the accounts

Pursuit Phase

  • Establish and develop the Capture Plans for targets identified within the Account Plans
  • Develop an understanding of each individual customers’ needs and articulate these in each Capture Plan
  • Establish a customer Call Plan and meet with them to discover gaps and present solutions
  • Locate Key Personnel suitable for the job
  • Locate required subcontractors to fill niche task requirements or small business subcontracting goals
  • Locate and commit one or more “guy on the ground” that understands details that may not be disclosed during the procurement cycle (make sure he does not have a conflict of interest!) Redact all of the information into a Bid/No Bid document for analysis

Proposal Phase

  • Hold strategy sessions and discuss all known information, and discover any final gaps
  • Develop the Concept of Operation (CONOPS)
  • Refine and finalize the B&P budget
  • Mobilize the Proposal and Cost Teams
  • Attend the Site Visit/Pre-proposal conference
  • Conduct Final Bid/No Bid for Management
  • Prepare, refine, produce, and deliver proposal

Post Submission Phase

  • Follow up to client
  • Orals Presentation if required
  • Archive working proposal documents into library
  • Respond to Questions/clarifications from customer
  • Revise proposal as needed

Operations Phase

  • Mobilize for Contract Phase-in
  • Negotiate contract modification as needed
  • Develop lessons learned (entire team)
  • Collect and archive contract performance data for future proposals

This is just a simple list of some of the major tasks performed during the process, there are many other sub-tasks that must be performed to accomplish these, and there are many opportunities to do them incorrectly. This is often frustrating for companies, as they are unable to understand why they’re not experiencing the success they believe they should have, or that their competition has, because they are dutifully performing each step of the process.

What’s important here is that merely performing the step is not the same as performing it correctly. Another dynamic of this is that it can be difficult to admit that sometimes we need help, or it could be that upper management would take a dim view of our abilities if we asked for outside help with our internal processes.

Additionally, many large (and some small) companies need help, but don’t know they need it (or in extreme cases, are too arrogant to admit it). This is normally characterized by a high turnover of business development personnel as they struggle in vain to be successful using a broken process.