96 Smiles: All about the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle

And when the sun comes up
I’ll be on top

? and the Mysterians, “96 Tears.” From https://genius.com/And-the-mysterians-96-tears-lyrics

I carved out some time late Wednesday morning to take a look at a book that I acquired back in late October.

The book is the 2019 edition of the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle Guide, which I won at a raffle at the APMP Western Chapter Training Day. (And yes, I won it in the presence of my SMA colleagues. But hey, good information comes from a variety of places.)

Now even though this book has a 2019 date, I’ve been familiar with the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle for a long, long time.

The first part of the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle. From http://sbdl.shipleywins.com/.

In fact, it was my late 1990s exposure to the Shipley lifecycle that prompted me to LEAVE proposals (the first time).

Let me explain.

As the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle points out, in the ideal world there are a number of proposal preparation steps that take place BEFORE a Request for Proposals (RFP) is issued. In this ideal world, the following conversation would take place after final RFP release:

Well, the RFP just dropped, and it’s almost exactly what we expected. A few tweaks in the interface requirements, but everything else is identical to our mockup. So we can just polish our previous plans, perform several more sanity checks, and win this!

It’s no surprise that sometimes situations are NOT ideal, and perhaps this conversation may take place instead:

Hey, our customer just released an RFP for a new system. I had no idea that they were going to release an RFP this year. Well, we’ve been the incumbent for years, and the people using our software seem to like us. I think. I don’t know the person who actually released the RFP, but my cousin’s brother-in-law knows him. As long as we come in with the lowest price, we’re certain to win this!

Obviously (or hopefully) most RFP releases are somewhere between these two extremes. But it got me thinking: what would it be like to move to the left on the Shipley timeline and participate in the pre-RFP release activities?

I ended up becoming a product manager, and later in my career (after a second stint in Proposals) became a strategic marketer and corporate strategist. But even in these other positions, I continued to dabble in proposals, primarily as a subject matter expert.

So I was already somewhat familiar with the contents of the Shipley guide, but now I had the entire guide in my hands. (I think I had a Shipley book twenty years ago, but I no longer have it.) This allowed me to review the contents at my leisure.

OK, maybe not THAT relaxed. My eyes have to be open, for one thing. (And certain paper products belong in the bathroom, not the living room.)

One nice thing about the printed guide: rather than numbering all the steps sequentially from 1 to 96, they are numbered within each phase. The steps in Phase 0 (Market Segmentation) are numbered from 0.1 to 0.6, the steps in Phase 1 (Long-Term Positioning) from 1.1 to 1.6, and so forth.

The lifecycle is much less imposing that way. If you tell management that you want to implement a 96-step process to win a customer, management will probably tell you to take a hike. (Even Martin Luther didn’t write 96 theses.) A 7-phase process is more palatable. (Marketing!)

After Phases 0 and 1, the Shipley Business Development Lifecycle contains 5 other phases:

Phase 2, Opportunity Assessment8 steps
Phase 3, Capture/Opportunity Planning15 steps
Phase 4, Proposal Planning31 steps
Phase 5, Proposal Development18 steps
Phase 6, Post-Submittal Activities12 steps
The final five (of seven) phases in the Shipley Business Develoopment Lifecycle.

The proposal planning phase (Phase 4) deserves a mention, since this is the phase in which Shipley practitioners outline the proposal, draft the executive summary, and update the winning price…all before the RFP is issued.

Obviously you have to know your customer really well to do all of that in advance, and if you don’t know your customer, your competitor probably already does.

Needless to say, I’m not going to duplicate the entire book here; it’s copyrighted, after all. But I do want to highlight the final step in the process, which is either step 6.12 or step 96 depending upon how you number things.

Hold a victory party (win or lose), including review teams.

Actually, you can tailor this step and hold TWO victory parties: one to celebrate that you got the proposal out the door, and a second if you win the contract.

Regardless of how many victory parties you actually hold, be sure to invite all of the contributors. It’s in your self-interest to do so.

Contributors who feel appreciated are more inclined to support subsequent proposal efforts.

Shipley Associates, Shipley Business Development Lifecycle Guide (2019 edition), page 82.

So that’s a few highlights. I only got a chance to look at a portion of the book on Wednesday morning, but it contains a wealth of valuable information for proposal managers/writers AND capture managers AND strategic marketers, corporate strategiests, and product managers.

Enough to make you happy so that you don’t cry. (I couldn’t leave this out.)

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