A Preventable Mistake That Could Kill Your Next Federal Capture

Written by
Chris Beck
Published on
22 January 2021

In pursuing major new awards with the Federal Government, the expertise and past experience of your company's employees is often the primary differentiator. But there are also instances in which one or a handful of individuals you have access to can give you an unfair advantage. That is, as long as you know who they are and the specific knowledge and expertise of each!

A recent conversation between Corey Solivan, a seasoned federal business development expert and strategist, and Brian Caouette, CEO at OnFrontiers, highlighted that being able to identify difference-makers and expertise that already exists in your company is not something your capture team should take for granted.

A $600 Million Federal Contract

Mr. Solivan recounted the example of a major system integrator attempting to land a $600m Department of Defense cloud consolidation award covering operations, migration, app refactoring, and licensing. 

Given the size of the prize, a dream team of the contractors best capture professionals were assembled for the mission. Key personnel of exemplary qualifications were sought.  CRM Records were diligently updated.  Shipley gate reviews were scheduled.

The Fatal Oversight

But somehow, the team overlooked a purple unicorn under their nose —the government's cloud platform CTO was already within their ranks, completely unbeknownst to the team. The team had access to resumes and other records that might have pointed to the CTO, had this information been made easily searchable. 

Yet sadly it had not - data and relationships were siloed within the company.  This combined with the fact that the CTO was new to the organization, set the stage for an embarrassing miss.

Not a Solitary Example

To make matters worse, the CTO was not the only passed-over linchpin on the pursuit. Two other key figures instrumental to the buying office’s operations, had prior affiliations with the contracting firm and could have been reengaged. These individuals, having occupied significant government roles due to their contract positions, possessed a wealth of insights into the intricate workings of the customer.

Ignored Intelligence

Despite uncovering an extensive array of information through their standard capture practices, the team ultimately failed to capitalize on their own proprietary intelligence. These individuals had intimacy with the customer, industry relationships, and uncommon knowledge of the challenges the contractor would need to face. They could have guided the team towards a winning solution design, team roster, and partnering strategy aligned with the customer's expectations and recognized pain points. Yet sadly, this secret weapon was never put to use.

A Big Wake-Up Call

This story serves as a wake up call that capture teams need better ways to ensure difference-making internal expertise is never overlooked. Although Mr. Solivan did not share the name of the firm “to protect the innocent,” he did describe it as “very well systemed” and “very well pedigreed” in their pipeline process - yet this vulnerability remained. If you run a federal sales organization, you might think twice before concluding your teams are immune from making a similar mistake.