Is Your Pipeline Too Large?

In Federal Business Development, or BD, actions must be made before business can be closed. Reading, finding, calling, emailing, researching, scheduling, and meeting are key activities that comprise the BD profession. Out of all of these activities, many feel that having meetings with potential buyers is the most important. It puts a company in front of government executives. However, just because someone is an executive, does not make him or her the best person with whom to meet. Meetings are important, but they must be the right meetings. The way to secure the right meeting is to ensure that you have a quality pipeline with opportunities that are relevant to your offerings. Let’s discuss what the differences between a bad and good pipeline are.

What makes a poor pipeline? Here’s a short list of what a quality pipeline does NOT look like:

Opportunities for the sake of opportunities. A long list of opportunities does not always equal a good pipeline.
Opportunities without any points of contact. It’s great if you have an opportunity, but it’s almost useless if you don’t have any contact with the people holding the money/information connected to that opportunity.
Opportunities with little chance of winning. If you have a 5-20% chance of winning the proposal, is it worth the time, money, or opportunity costs in chasing it? Probably not.

We can look at what makes a bad list and see where the shortcomings lie. Obviously, if a pipeline is full of opportunities that have little chance of being won, does it matter? In my opinion, an opportunity is only an opportunity if it has a viable chance of being awarded to the respective company.

So, what makes a quality pipeline? A quick answer to this is WORK. Creating a good pipeline is not an easy task. If it were, companies would not hire multiple employees in their BD department or hire outside consultancies. The process takes a lot of time. In the simplest form, the steps to a good pipeline are:

1. Prepare to do a lot of “legwork”. This is not something you can export into Excel from a government website and POOF it’s all done.
2. Start with an aggregate of opportunities. All of the opportunities will not be high quality in the beginning.
3. Research the information concerning any aspect of an opportunity, though it may seem useless, it’s still information and builds the bigger picture.
4. Qualify it to understand the landscape. Do we know anyone behind these? Do we have time to create a winning proposal? What are the buyer’s preferences?
5. Repeat the process until you have narrowed your opportunity list to a manageable number.

In conclusion, a bigger pipeline is not always a better pipeline. Actually, it’s usually quite the opposite. Winnow down your list and focus on 5 to 10 opportunities at a time. Research is key to a quality pipeline. Qualification of the researched opportunities pays dividends later. Repeat the research and qualification process over and over until you end with a list of opportunities that have a high probability of winning. Whoever said “winning isn’t everything” clearly had nothing to do with Business Development.

Sara Coit