Is Your Pipeline Capture Process Marketing or Selling?

Peter Drucker once said, "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."

A B2G pipeline development process goes from market research/ opportunity identification through to proposal submission/ contract negotiation. It encompasses both marketing and sales activity. But, the majority of the time spent is in marketing. BD people are not selling; they make presentations, talk to people about possibilities, present capabilities, distinguish your company from competitors. They are doing what we refer to as target marketing. They are creating a potential customer. When it is time to write a proposal, then you are selling.

Jack Trout wrote about Peter Drucker’s philosophy in an article for Forbes in 2006. He suggested 4 things you should do to create a strategic marketing advantage. Below, we will apply them to marketing for government business.

Peter Drucker. Photo Source: BetterBusiness.Com

1. Make Sense In the Context  

Know your competition and understand how the customer views them. You never exist in a vacuum. When we talk about competitive analysis and we create a list of potential bidders, we are just starting to place your effort within a winnable context. Once you know who you might compete with, you can explore your customers needs and desires; and place those within the context of the competition. This will provide the understanding you need to determine your own position.

2. Find the Differentiating Idea 

What separates you from these competitors? When we look into a Win Strategy template and start asking what hot-buttons and buyer values the client has, and what strengths you have to respond, and how those create differentiators and themes, we are talking about developing an approach to your conversations with the client, and ultimately to how you will sell them in your proposal – all part of the pipeline process.

3. Have the Credentials 

Do you evaluate each past performance you will use against the customer's needs and the competitive context? Do you create case studies to share with the customer in advance of when they appear in the proposal? Do you register gaps and  collect credentials from your teaming partners to close them? Beyond past performance, what other proof points can you and your partners summon in order to solidify your capabilities?

4. Communicate Your Difference

If you do not find a variety of ways to let the customer know about all of this before the RFP comes out, then all you have is a bunch of great secrets.

You will find all of this reflected in the CLEVER business development process/system. It's not easy; it does not lend itself to simple answers. It is a lot of work over a prolonged period of time. That is why it is called a pipeline – it is something you have to fill up, keep moving, and continue to feed, maintain and monitor. When it runs at the right rate without interruption, you get the fluid coming out the other end that you need to survive. But you need to manage the end-to-end process, not just look at one gallon (one deal) of fluid at a time.

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