I am not a sportsman, but the topic of whether to take a rifle or shotgun approach to business development is one that I often encounter. Like most strategic decisions, this is not an either/or decision, but one that must be considered as part of your overall federal strategy. The argument is over whether it is better to take a broad approach, responding to solicitations as they are issued the government (shotgun approach) or to target specific procurements by devoting significant resources to individual opportunities (rifle approach). The idea is that a rifle approach will result in a higher winning percentage, but the cost of each individual proposal will be higher. On the other hand, a shotgun approach means that the company is going after anything and everything within its scope of business by using a sophisticated proposal process at a lower cost per proposal. The rifle approach focuses on the upfront relationships and therefore requires a well-tuned business development and capture engine. The shotgun approach invests resources into the capture and proposal process, relying on its ability to address specific requirements in the solicitation documents better than the competition and at a lower price.
The rifle strategy is best suited for companies that have a well-defined product and/or a well understood market segment. These companies can focus their approaches on that segment of the Federal Government that has the greatest need for their product or service. They can easily analyze what agencies or organizations use their product or service and who the decision-makers are within that organization. On the other hand, many companies have broader scope of products or services, or fewer resources and time to devote to building these relationships. For example they may be selling security services or web design services that impact the broader customer base. Likewise, commodity products and services are generally best addressed using a shotgun strategy.
Do not fall into the “either/or” trap. I have heard many companies state that they will only bid where they have a solid relationship with the customer. They focus on win percentages at the expense of extending their reach. Other companies rely only on responding to solicitation documents and “word of mouth”. Both types of companies can succeed, but they are missing big opportunities.
I contend that every company must balance their strategy using a combination of rifle and shotgun approaches. Yes, I did say balance, one of my major themes. A company that relies 100% on either the rifle or shotgun strategy will miss important growth opportunities for their business. The fact is that no company can identify every opportunity sufficiently in advance of the solicitation documents to allow the time to build their relationship the client. Further, many federal customers do not want to hold conversations with vendors and actually cut off those conversations early in the process. The degree to which your company will subscribe the each of these approaches is dependent on the amount of resources you have to dedicate to marketing and relationship building with clients. The more your product or service approaches commodity (that is any product or service that has a large number of contenders in the same market space), the more your strategy will lean towards the shotgun approach.
Assess the personality of your product/service and markets by taking my market personality assessment. This will help you decide which strategy is most appropriate for your company.
Please let me know which strategy your company follows and why by leaving a comment below.