Capture is the art of winning business. It is the synthesis of strategy, tactics, and leadership. It is hard to do. To do it well is really hard. No short-cuts exist to achieve a winning outcome. It is hard pick and shovel work that requires incredible attention to detail. Being competitive places a premium on planning, preparation, and flawless execution.
As Sun Tzu said more than 2,000 years ago “Know your enemy and know yourself”. Make no mistake that in the highly competitive world of 21st century business, your competitors are your enemy. To win, you have to beat them, and you must want to beat them. To be successful in capture, you have to be competitive. It is not enough to simply understand the client or customer requirements and say “Here is how I will meet your requirements”. You have to understand a multi-dimensional model of the marketplace that includes the client requirements, your competitors’ capabilities, and a brutally painful objective self-evaluation of your own capabilities. You need to be driven toward answering the question “How will we win” which is synonymous with “How will we beat the other guys”.
Imagine a football team taking the field on game day without having spent any time at all studying the opposing team or knowing anything about them. Now think about your team facing this opponent and you only found out who your opponent was at the time you actually took the field and lined up for the kickoff. Yes, your team is on the field, and yes, your team practiced all week, but you practiced in the abstract. You could only run your own plays and you spent as much time on running as you did on passing, and on run defense as you did on pass defense without any insight into the opposing team, their tendencies, or even who that team, your opponent, was going to be. Now, hold that thought, and consider yourself for a few brief moments as that opponent and you are on their sideline.
They knew when schedules were released that they would be playing your team on this date. Months ago they began gathering as much data about you as they could find in the pubic record; your stats, tendencies, and films from the previous and current season. They checked their own files and internal databases and found that they had played you a year ago, and they pulled that information together as well. When the background data gathering was completed, their coach brought together a group of assistant coaches and scouts and they began to analyze and synthesize that data into meaningful and actionable information. This is a key point – synthesizing data into meaningful and actionable information – remember it. The coach sent scouts to watch your current games and they took notes and collected data from those games and what they saw. Moving ever closer to their own game with your team, they correlated your longer term tendency information with what they had observed during your more recent games. From the correlation of the historical trends and tendencies, and the most recent data from your current games, they developed the draft of a game plan focused on maximizing their own known strengths against your observed weaknesses, and further refined it to shield their weaknesses from any of your strengths that they observed. From that game plan, they practiced against it before the start of their game with your team, and when they took the field against you, they knew exactly what they were going to do strategically – let’s say running more often than passing. And they knew tactically how they were going to accomplish that strategy – let’s say over-weighting runs to the left side, and throwing short passes to the right. With that as their strategic and tactical game plan, they spent the entire week practicing against those plans so that once the game began, they could execute effectively and efficiently within their plan – the plan that was objectively designed to maximize their strengths and to exploit your weaknesses, while minimizing your strengths and shielding their own weaknesses.
Once the ball is kicked and the game starts in our hypothetical scenario, the outcome is pre-ordained – the prepared team totally dominates your unprepared team and wins the game. In this example, over-simplified to highlight the key points, your team did not even know which team you were going to face until game-time itself, while your opponent, your competitor, the game winner, had been preparing well in advance, knew who their opponent was, had a great strategy with effective implementing tactics, and executed flawlessly on the field. That is why they won.
Ironically, on paper, the personnel on your team – person for person – are at least as good as theirs – and in some positions even better. And at your level of competition, your facilities are just as good. And each day before the game your team practiced hard from morning to night. And during the game itself your personnel lined up for each play, sweated, suffered, and played hard. The field was the same for both teams. The rules of the game were the same for both teams. But your team lost and you lost decisively. The only difference in our example was the focus and commitment to advance planning and preparation with the results of those efforts channeled into an objectively derived game plan – your Capture Plan.
And that is what Capture is – the process to develop that winning game plan, the objective assessment of yourself and your opponent to create a winning strategy, the development of effective supporting tactics for that strategy, diligent practice against that plan, and finally flawless execution on the field at game time to ensure a winning outcome. Thinking that you can win competitive business when you are unprepared while competing against a fully prepared opponent using proven Capture disciplines is no more likely than the unprepared football team beating the team that has been fully prepared and practiced accordingly.
But yet it happens often – and the outcome is always the same. A solicitation document of any sort is released and a decision is made to bid it with no real advance knowledge, and no meaningful preparation against fully prepared competitors. You will lose. The outcome is a foregone conclusion. The only thing you will get is a ticket to the loser’s debrief.
“BUT WAIT” you say. “MY COMPETITORS ARE NOT USING CAPTURE SO I DON’T NEED TO EITHER”. For the sake of discussion let’s consider that a fair question for the moment and do a brief logical analysis:
- My competitors are not using Capture processes
- My competitors are using Capture processes
If your industry or segment competitive analysis leads you to believe that “A” is true, then if you use capture and embrace capture concepts you will gain a competitive advantage – “we are now prepared to compete for X deal, and our competition is not and thus we have a competitive advantage.” Conversely, if your industry or segment competitive analysis leads you to believe that “B” is true, then you are already at a competitive disadvantage if you are not using capture and should embrace and incorporate capture and capture processes to regain parity and at least neutralize your competitive disadvantage.
Either path clearly and unequivocally leads you to the logical conclusion that using capture and capture processes will improve your competitive positioning to win – either by leaping ahead of your non-capture competitors, or by catching up to your capture competitors that are currently ahead of you.
If you cannot see the value of capture to you or your business at this point, and decide that capture is not for you, your outcomes are pre-ordained, and you will not maximize your probability of winning many and perhaps any competitive new business.
But if you do begin to see the potential value of capture and capture processes, then embrace capture; study the craft as a profession; and learn the proven tools, tips, and techniques in order to compete effectively in the 21st century and to increase your probability of winning on every deal that you choose to bid.