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LPTA Awards: Sad to Say, They’re Not Going Away

AwardOver the course of the past several years, “best value” has reigned supreme in the federal contracting world.  But with the economic downturn, we’ve seen an increase in Lowest Price-Technically Acceptable (LPTA) contracts.  Despite the general aversion for LPTA awards, they’re here to stay. Last summer, Washington Technology did a survey among contractors regarding LPTA contracts.  68% of the survey’s respondents said the LPTA has negatively or mostly negatively impacted their businesses; pointing to suffering profits, lowered salaries, and an influx of junior staffers as results of increasing LPTA awards. And 66% of respondents said the LPTA has negatively or mostly negatively impacted the customer.  Comments included the government’s surprise in receiving junior staff when experience was needed, and an inability to win task orders under BPAs due to lack of experienced personnel at proposed prices. Work has been done on both sides of contracting business to assure that the government’s needs are met, while educating government customers about the risk of an LPTA award.  But with ongoing political power plays and uncertain budgets, the LPTA award isn’t going away any time soon.  Nearly half of contractors surveyed think the number of LPTA awards will increase in the next few years.  At Richter & Company, we agree. With many agencies having troubles in their contracting shop, and plenty of commoditized items on the purchasing docket, the LPTA is a convenient way to purchase.  Unfortunately, the convenience outweighs the risk.  The LPTA award isn’t going away any time soon.
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Making the Call: Competitive Analysis

At Richter & Company, we make the call.  Primary research– actually talking to people within industry– provides quantitative data we need to make sound analysis. On most projects, there are 150 to 300 contacts that we reach out to.  In our consulting role, we have flexibility in reaching out to companies as a third party.  Because we’re not vested in an opportunity, we have the ability to ask about the opportunity, problems with the procurement, the competition, and likely solutions. Primary research faces the largest risk of disinformation- any business development manager can offer unreliable information, but it also offers some of the most valuable data points.   Statistical “outliers” can be set aside for further review or examination, but the aggregate of information presented in calls paints a pretty accurate picture of the competitive landscape of a program. Sound and accurate analysis is built on both qualitative and quantitative data.  The more thorough the research efforts, the more we can provide you with actionable intelligence for your capture efforts.  For more information regarding Richter & Company’s services, contact us.
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The Framework of Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis can be a daunting task.  At Richter & Company, we believe strong, reliable processes build the foundation and framework for sound, defensible analysis.  Competitive analysis can be broken down into three parts: Business Intelligence forms the foundation of competitive intelligence.  It focuses on quantitative numbers, like financial metrics and number of units produced.  Business intelligence consists of solid, irrefutable data points that define a company. Competitor Intelligence lays out the framework for analysis.  It is made up of quantitative data (business intelligence) and qualitative data.  While quantitative data defines, qualitative data describes.  Capabilities (general and specific), relevant news and identified past performance help characterize a company as qualitative data points.  We can define ‘competitor intelligence’ as information specific to a single competitor. Competitive Intelligence enhances competitor intelligence through inclusion of environmental factors (political, economic, social, etc.).  Experienced analysts help determine how these external factors will affect the competitor intelligence gathered.  Companies can then be assessed against one another in some kind of objective evaluation, mimicking the source selection board decision-making process. Richter & Company has been using this framework for competitive analysis to help clients win more than $30B in new business since 2006.  To find out we can help you win, contact us today.
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SWOT to Strategy

Many companies include the SWOT chart as part of a competitive intelligence presentation.  They spend a lot of time preparing the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and creating a beautiful image.  And… that’s it. SWOT charts were designed to be springboards for creating strategies.  What products or services will the company leverage?  How will they differentiate their offering?  What story will they tell?  What are their weaknesses?  Are they aware of them?  How will they mitigate those weaknesses?  How are they perceived by the outside market?  What kinds of opportunities and threats exist outside of the company’s control? Strengths identified in other companies should give you incentive to bolster your own solutions.  If your solution is not as capable, or desirable, should you be bidding?  Opportunities allow you to assess how your own company will be viewed, and where you can maximize play in a potential marketplace. Weaknesses and threats can be turned into ghosting opportunities.  How can you capitalize on potential (or perceived) risk?  How can you differentiate your own offering to highlight an area of weakness in another solution? SWOTs can be extremely valuable tools, if they’re used correctly.  Contact Richter & Company today to find out more about positioning and strategies that help you win.
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A Strong Knowledgebase

In the journey of competitive intelligence, it’s essential to have some kind of knowledgebase to store information.  This knowledgebase allows you to capture data, analyze historical trends and preposition information as you move into the future.  Here are a few characteristics of a strong knowledgebase: A strong knowledgebase is shared by your team.  Too often, there are no shared data points between coworkers.  One has a Rolodex of his references; another has an Excel file saved on her desktop.  The best knowledgebase is one that’s shared among coworkers so it’s robust and constantly updated.  In order for that to happen… A strong knowledgebase is accessible.  If your team can’t locate the knowledgebase or doesn’t know how to use it, the tool becomes worthless.  Train your team.  Let them know what goes into the knowledgebase, and what is expected from them for each program.  All of your people need to know how to enter information, and how to pull information out.  Make it easy for all of them to log in and enter information.  But most importantly, A strong knowledgebase is used.  Whether it’s a CRM tool, a sharepoint site or a specialized Excel tool, a strong knowledgebase is one that is used regularly.  Summaries and trends can be analyzed when there are many, many data points being entered into the knowledgebase.  Be sure to use your knowledgebase regularly to maximize its potential. Richter & Company’s knowledgebase includes some 80,000 contacts, and allows us to preposition data for every program.  Contact us today to find out how you can win more business.
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Proposal Writing: Feature versus Benefit

Often times when companies present their solutions before the government, they talk a lot about themselves.  When you’re thinking about themes, working a brainstorm session with your team, or actually writing your proposal, be sure that you’re focused on your customer. Features are attributes of your solution.  Be it products or services, features are those things that can differentiate you from the competition:  lower cost, smaller size, more power, larger supply base, extended life. Even great features can be meaningless in a proposal, however, if you don’t highlight the value they bring to your customer.  Benefits highlight value. Your solution is lower cost.  If your customer is looking to spend big money, your feature is meaningless.  But in a difficult economy, where maximum value means getting more bang for your buck, low cost is a huge benefit. Base your features around your customer’s needs and wants, and they become benefits.  Once you can prove the benefit of your solution, you’re well on your way to winning!
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New Year’s Resolutions for the Contracting Community

2015 means new opportunities.  Not just in terms of upcoming contracts, but within your organization as well.  Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of opportunity knocking: Use the No Bid.  There are far too many companies that feel like once they’ve invested B&P dollars, they must bid an opportunity.  Encourage your team to use discretion in walking away from a contract.  Gate reviews serve as great times to assess your company’s decision to pursue an opportunity.  If you don’t have a convincing story for winning, don’t waste your time. Invest In Your People.  A successful business is comprised of successful individuals.  Take the time to define your company’s mission, capture strategies and tools for success to each of the members of your team.  Give your employees the tools they need to communicate effectively with each other, and provide outlets for feedback for management.  Enter them in training courses, and allow them to continue growing as business professionals. Invite Consultants to the Table.  Need someone to come in to enforce the resolutions for 2015?  Outside consultants can work free from your company’s biases and management’s (possible) backlash.  Too many teams drink their own kool-aid:  thinking their wrap rates can’t possibly be lowered or that their incumbent status ensures contract victory.  Consultants can help confirm assumptions, bolster your team’s strategies, and help you win more business. About Richter & Company Richter & Company is an industry leading competitive intelligence consulting firm whose services have helped clients win more than $30B in new revenue since 2006.  Please visit www.richterandco.wpengine.com for more information.
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Finishing Strong: 3 Habits of Winning Teams

Winning federal business dollars is cutthroat business.   Especially in today’s hypercompetitive marketplace where LPTA contracts now represent a third of contract awards, and large ID/IQ vehicles reign for maximum value to the government. Winning teams work hard to win.  And many differentiate themselves from the competition in how they handle a contract post-award.  Here are three habits of highly effective teams:

1.        FOIA Bids.  The Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing, but few companies actually take advantage of available information.  FOIA your own company and bids, and make sure they’re redacted properly.  Check out your competition on contracts; find out what they’ve redacted.  And what they haven’t.  FOIA requests are generally long lead items, but they can provide wonderful information.  More data points equates to better analyses which equates to better strategies which equates to winning more business.

2.       Do a “Lessons Learned” Session.  Win or lose, it’s critical that you leverage information to preposition for other bids.  Attend the outbrief; find out what the Government has to say about the award.  Pull your team together, and discuss key takeaways.  Document internal processes that worked, and those that didn’t.  The more cohesive your team is, the more effectively you’ll work, and the more business you’ll win.

3.       Begin preparing for the recompete.  What is proposed is not always what is delivered.  Winning teams know that their performance matters.  From Day 1 of the contract start, they’re aware that they’re building the story for their next proposal.  They work to deliver what they proposed, have strong communication with their customers and are able to use each contract as a positive reference.

Are there other post-award habits of winning teams you would add to this list? About Richter & Company Richter & Company is an industry leading competitive intelligence consulting firm whose services have helped clients win more than $30B in new revenue since 2006.  Please visit www.richterandco.wpengine.com for more information.
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Avoiding Proposal Mistakes

In an effort to spread the love this Valentine’s Day, we bring you five mistakes of proposals.  In the federal contracting world, of course. Ignoring the person your proposal is for.  Talk about what your customer needs and wants.  Be in tune with their requirements, both explicit and implicit.  Spend some time getting to know what exactly they’re looking for with the solicitation.  And then speak to that, not what your corporate objectives entail. Not getting permission beforehand.  If you don’t have early management, buy-in, you’re going to have a hard time getting the time and dollars you need to win business.  Communicate about everything:  schedules, resources, B&P dollars.  Get management, capture teams and consultants like Richter & Company involved early in the opportunity lifecycle. Talking about yourself.  Watch the number of times you mention yourself compared to your customer.  Don’t talk about yourself, your capabilities, and your solution the whole time.  Speak to the benefits of your solution from the customer’s standpoint, rather than the features your company offers. Being late.  If you can’t be on time with your proposal submission, don’t even bother. Making promises you can’t (or don’t intend to) deliver.  Whatever your proposal entails, be sure that you can deliver.  Terminations and off-ramps are crippling to your business, and in a hyper-competitive marketplace, you can be sure someone else will step in to deliver what you couldn’t.  If you propose it, do it.
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The Snow Storms of Capture

With snow and ice storms impacting much of the country this week, we’re reminded that preparing for bad weather is a lot like preparing for capture of new business within the federal marketspace.  Here’s our top five bits of advice for handling either. IMG_8820 1-      Prepare ahead of time.  You never want to face the storm without the proper resources.  For bad weather, tradition holds you need to stock up on bread, milk and TP.  In the contracting world, it’s all about people.  Make sure you have the right people tasked to the right assignments.  Give them the resources they need to succeed, and be involved throughout as a manager.  In either case, if you wait until last minute, you’re not going to get what you need. 2-     Don’t rely on the forecast.  Forecasts can be helpful, but don’t rely too heavily on them.  When you know a solicitation is on the horizon, be prepared.  Don’t be blindsided by an early, or late, release, or changing requirements in a solicitation.  Do your own research, talk to a lot of people, and make your own decisions.  Along with that, 3-     Be flexible.  Contract releases, like storm patterns, tend to change over time.  The closer they get, the more difficult they are to grasp.  You must be willing to change and adapt to the changing dates and needs the government presents. 4-     Trust your people.  Somehow roads get cleared and power lines get restored when everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to and working as a team.  Trust your pricing people to do pricing, your proposal people to write proposals.  Work with trusted consultants like Richter & Company for your independent competitive assessment and price to win needs.  Hold your people accountable, and know that there’s a trust factor involved.  Encourage working together as a team, and be available for assisting in any realm you’re needed. 5-     Responsibility ultimately rests on you.  You can blame snow, sleet, ice and the declining skills of the contracting community, but ultimately your fate rests on you.  How you plan for and respond to your circumstances determines how well you’ll fare in any storm.