BD Pipeline: Customer Relations

In this third post in my business development pipeline series, I look at the role of customer relations in calculating PWIN.

By Kyle Green

The theory is pretty simple: you are an incumbent working with the customer, by default you should have a good customer relationship. Reality is far less simplistic. A couple simple questions help paint the reality: In the past two months, have you visited the customer to discuss non-contract specific performances? In the past four months, have you provided additional capabilities information, e.g. briefings, white papers, or invitations to visit your facility? If the answer to either question is “no,” you have a customer relations issue. All the customer knows about you is your performance on the current contract. This may be helpful for winning a recompete of the current contract, but it is not accounting for future efforts or possible scope changes available under the current contract.

A few years ago, I was asked to help a company with an opportunity that was coming up for recompete. As part of developing the capture plan we interviewed the performer’s key management personnel on the contract. The interview results were troubling. Other than the contracting officer, no one managing the program had talked to anyone in the customer shop. To make matters worse, nobody could identify the Government’s program manager. As soon as the problem was recognized, we expended a significant amount of effort trying to recover. It was too late. A competitor had recognized the situation first and pitched their solution to the customer with an “anyone can perform the incumbent’s scope” line. When the government released the recompete Request for Proposal (RFP), it was clear that the competitor’s pitch had influenced the customer. While this is an unusual circumstance, it illustrates an important point: you may be able to perform without regular customer interaction but doing so makes it almost impossible to predict, even with exceptional performance, your ability to win a recompete or new work.

What does this have to do with incumbent PWIN? If your team doesn’t have regular contact with multiple levels of the customer’s team, you should certainly discount your PWIN by whatever advantage you give the incumbent (~15%) and possibly consider conserving your bid and proposal (B&P) resources with a “no bid” recommendation. If your team has only interacted with the customer within the context of the current contract, discount your incumbent advantage by ~10%. If you have never provided the customer with your outlook/vision/way ahead for the contract, discount your incumbent advantage by ~5%.

The system works similarly for going after work where you are trying to steal a contract during re-compete. As a competitor, your starting PWIN is likely ~35%. Then you ask a series of questions that increase your PWIN by ~5% for each “yes” answer. The key here is to honestly assess your customer relations activity in order to accurately assess your PWIN:

  • Did you begin developing a relationship with the customer before the recompete was squarely on their radar?
  • Does the customer understand of your team structure, experience, and capabilities as well as the solutions you will be offering?
  • Has the customer provided positive feedback that suggests minor adjustments on the proposed solutions? And are you incorporating those adjustments?
  • Has the customer met with your company’s senior leadership and program manager responsible for ensuring effective execution of the program?

In this series’ final post, I will discuss the full calculation of your PWIN.

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Published on May 13, 2020 by

Dick Eassom, CF APMP Fellow