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OPPORTUNITY PLANS

Baskar Sundaram

Opportunity plans are documents containing the actions and capabilities needed to win a proposal. They are used by sellers to improve customer positioning. Customer positioning refers to an organization’s position from the perspective of a customer. The opportunity plan documents how a seller can move from the current position to an improved position and finally reach a favoured position. Opportunity plans begin by identifying an opportunity, followed by making a bid pursuit decision and assigning an Opportunity Manager. The functions of the opportunity plan include:

  • Drive and track all opportunity activities
  • Provide information for gate decisions
  • Brief review teams
  • Provide handover to the core proposal team to develop the proposal plan
  • Create content and lessons learned that can be used in subsequent pursuits

Opportunity plans evolve continuously as new content is added, but a standard structure is maintained throughout the process. The tools like customer contact plans, bidder comparison matrices, action item trackers, strategy statement templates etc. can be used for the creation of opportunity plans.

Best Practices

  • Gather and analyze intelligence about the customer and the competition

Gathering and analysing data to turn it into intelligence is the primary step of creating an opportunity plan. Using the intelligence thus gained, form a bidder comparison matrix that scores the strengths and weaknesses of all significant bidders. After this, document the strengths and weaknesses of each potential bidder using SWOT analysis. Competitor weaknesses are viewed as opportunities and strengths are considered threats.

  • Work collaboratively with the customer to craft a solution addressing explicit requirements and hot buttons.

The process of creating the opportunity plan should be dynamic, flexible, current, and collaborative. Create a contact plan, a list of the customers you are going to contact and decide on the message that will be sent to the customer. Provide a notional solution to the customer and gain feedback on how to improve it so as to meet the customer’s requirements. With the gathering of more intelligence, the specifics of the customer’s concerns, requirements, issues, and hot buttons will surface. Therefore, the solutions must evolve in order to gain even greater traction with the buyer and reflect customer-focused writing.

  • Develop program, opportunity, and proposal budgets

Once the intelligence is gained, the budget and resources needed should be established. It is better to continue focusing on improving the win probability only if the opportunity is significant enough and your company is able to provide the necessary resources. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to no-bid, or consider switching to a subcontractor position with another firm acting as prime contractor.

  • Initiate teaming and make/buy decisions

In order to achieve capabilities that are not found in your company, you can rely on team partners. Teaming helps achieve small business and other set-aside goals. It also enables you to eliminate competitions. It facilitates make/buy decisions where the company decides whether to produce a product in-house or to buy it.

  • Conduct opportunity plan and competitor simulation reviews

Reviews on opportunity plan and competitor reviews are aimed at improving the quality of the plan. The reviews provide different perspectives on the customer, competitor and solution. Make sure that the reviewers make constructive recommendations and also consider these recommendations while updating the plan.

  • Mock up an executive summary.

The transition from opportunity plan to proposal planning can be made easier using a mock executive summary. In order to provide an understanding about the proposal among the team members, identify the customer’s hot buttons and match them with your solutions.

  • Guide transition of opportunity plan elements to the proposal plan

An updated opportunity plan along with a mock executive summary can effectively front-load proposal planning. The information gathered about the customer, competition and requirements can be directly transferred to the proposal. The win strategies mentioned in the opportunity plan become the proposal strategies.

  • Develop and lead decision gate reviews.

The opportunity plan serves as the basis for executive management decision-making regarding the opportunity. The number and focus of decision gates depend upon the complexity of the opportunities and company governance processes. Good decisions that avoid a bias toward always going forward should be the goal.

Pitfalls

            The most common pitfall regarding opportunity plans is focusing on the plan rather than the customer. It takes time to create an opportunity plan and most companies forget the fact that the opportunity plan should be made in collaboration with the customer. Customer interactions are extremely important for the creation of an effective opportunity plan.

The article briefly details key examinable syllabus area from the APMP Foundation certification.

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