Qualifying your leads can be the difference between pursuing a winning bid and wasting resources on a losing one
Leads for government contracts are everywhere.
Whether you obtain your leads by searching online tools like FedBizOpps or GovWin, attending industry days and other agency events, or networking with fellow government contractors, there is no shortage of government contracts to bid on.
The sad part is that unless you have unlimited money and resources (and who does?), your organization will never be able to pursue and bid on every lead – there are simply too many.
So how do you determine which leads might turn into real opportunities? How do you select which ones you’ll have your BD reps pursue? How do you identify which leads will receive time, money, and resources?
The answer is that you have to qualify them. Read on to find out how to do just that.
How are leads different from opportunities?
The first thing we should do is clarify the difference between a lead and an opportunity.
A lead can be any potential government contracting project, regardless of how far along the project is in the acquisition process. Some examples include:
- If the Army holds an industry day and presents a bunch of ideas they’d like to work on, each of those potential projects can be a lead.
- If the Department of Veterans Affairs puts out an RFI to develop a new software platform, that’s a lead too.
- If the State Department releases an RFP that you just found out about on FedBizOpps, that’s a lead as well.
The definition of a lead is pretty broad, isn’t it? Why yes, yes it is.
That’s why having lots of leads doesn’t mean jack shiitake.
Opportunities are leads that are researched, assessed, and ultimately qualified. Referring to the aforementioned leads:
- If you researched the Army’s award history and found that they often award and fully fund these types of projects, and you can execute the work, you can consider those projects real opportunities.
- If you have solid contacts at the VA and have the knowledge to create a strong response to their RFI, that can be a real opportunity.
- Because you just found out about the State Department’s RFP, you’re probably too late and shouldn’t turn this lead into an opportunity. Sorry! 🙁
As you can see, there’s a big difference between a lead and opportunity, and it can have a really big impact on how successful your BD efforts are.
How to qualify leads and turn them into opportunities
While your company should have a defined process to assess, filter, and qualify your leads, it doesn’t need to be an overwhelmingly resource-intensive procedure.
Lead qualification happens very early in the overall capture process, so you don’t need to spend too much time qualifying each lead; there will be plenty of additional opportunity analysis throughout the capture process. But it’s something that you must do in order to whittle down your big bucket of leads into a manageable opportunity pipeline.
Here are some of the tasks you can execute to turn leads into opportunities.
Research the buyer
Performing initial research on the purchasing agency is a good place to start your lead qualification process.
Your buyer research should answer these questions:
- Which agency is funding the project, as opposed to just awarding it? Money talks, and the agency who is funding the project is the one you want to dig into.
- How much has the agency spent on similar projects in the past? Use FPDS.gov or USASpending.gov to extract these numbers. Data is useful and can be fun, too!
- Does the agency have a good track record in actually awarding and funding these types of projects? If the agency has a bad reputation for frequently canceling contracts, don’t waste your time; there are plenty of fish in the sea.
- Why is the buyer looking to execute these types of projects? Do you have a preliminary understanding of their pain points and needs?
- Do you have any existing relationships at the buying agency, or shared connections that can get you in touch with key agency personnel? Relationships are paramount, and if you don’t see a path to forging a strong relationship with the buyer, you’re going to be left behind.
Doing some exploratory research into your prospective buyer will give you a better idea of how real this lead is and whether it can turn into a true opportunity.
Determine if the lead aligns with your skills
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself to determine whether the leads aligns with your skills.
Do you understand the preliminary technical requirements of the project?
At the early stages, the exact details of a project’s technical requirements may not be clear. And at this point, they’re not completely necessary.
But you should be able to grasp the overarching technical issues at hand and have a fundamental understanding of what needs to be built and how to build it. On the other hand, if the technical requirements make your head spin, maybe it’s time to move on.
Do you have the skills to execute the project effectively?
Sounds like a simple question, but many government contractors think they have relevant skills when they really don’t.
For instance, let’s say you’re considering a large Java software development project. You may have a bunch of software developers on staff, but most of them are proficient in C#, and only one or two engineers may be strong in Java. Do you really think you have the skills and resources to execute this big project efficiently and effectively?
Do you have relevant past performance?
Have you executed projects similar to the lead you’re thinking about pursuing?
At this point, you don’t necessarily have to dig through your entire history of past projects, assess their similarity to the opportunity, and analyze how well you performed on them. But you should have an idea of a couple of projects that are relevant to the opportunity for reference purposes.
The skills your company possesses and how relevant they are to the lead is an important factor in determining whether the lead turns into an opportunity.
Determine if the lead fits with your company’s strategy
If you’re a 20-person company who typically wins contracts around $3 million, pursuing a $100 million contract isn’t a great strategic fit.
If you’re a high-value service provider and signs point to the project being awarded on an Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) basis, it might not be for you.
If your strategy is to grow your company’s headcount steadily, bidding on a massive project where you’ll have to hire rapidly just doesn’t align well.
Before bidding on any project, you should know what kind of company you are and want to be. This strategy should guide your decision making across many facets of your company, including which government leads to pursue.
Find out more about your potential competition
Understanding what companies you might go up against can help you determine whether to pursue the lead or move on.
Identifying the set-aside status can help you narrow down your potential competition to qualify or disqualify leads. If the contract is a small business set-aside, only the companies that meet this criteria will be able to bid, giving you a good idea of who you might go up against.
Knowing the acquisition vehicle can help as well. If you’re bidding on a task order from GSA IT-70, you have a starting point of who might be your competition.
If the contract is a recompete, it definitely helps to understand the strength of the incumbent and their performance on the current contract. If the word on the street is that the customer isn’t thrilled with the incumbent’s work, then this lead might be a real opportunity. If the customer is very happy with the incumbent’s performance, then winning this project might be too tall of a task.
Benefits of qualifying your leads
There is a wealth of benefits to qualifying your leads.
Less wasted resources
The first benefit is that you won’t be wasting time and resources pursuing leads that you’re unlikely to win.
The capture process takes a lot of time and effort from your business development, marketing, and capture teams. If you pursue leads that aren’t a good fit for your company, all of these dedicated resources would be wasted.
By qualifying your leads early, you can avoid wasting precious resources and dedicate them to more highly-qualified opportunities, which can translate into more winning bids.
Qualifying leads early helps you forecast more accurately.
First, your revenue forecasts will be more accurate. The more you know about the opportunities you’re pursuing, the better you can predict PWIN and contract value for each. This in turn will help you build more granular and accurate revenue models.
Next, you can better predict resource levels needed for capturing new work and staffing current and future projects.
By better understanding the work that will be necessary to win new contracts, you can more accurately assess the number of employees you need to capture this work.
And by identifying the potential scope of these projects, you can better align project resource levels and create more accurate hiring plans.
If your team constantly chases work that they know they can’t win, their morale will plummet.
But if your team identifies contracts that are winnable, they’ll work with vigor and dedication to pursue them. With this positive energy may come more contract wins and an increased win rate, which will further increase morale for future pursuits.
Leads are everywhere. True opportunities are not.
You should have a process that assesses leads early to determine whether they are qualified opportunities. This process doesn’t have to be extremely in-depth; rather, asking exploratory questions can go a long way.
Your company will waste less resources, be able to more accurately forecast revenue and resource levels, and increase morale of your employees.
How are you qualifying your leads and determining whether they are real opportunities? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.