One of the most important and valuable elements of an effective competitive assessment—as well as a solid capture strategy—is assessing who is the “team to beat,” the competitor in the strongest position to win. This process highlights the areas where you need to strengthen your capture and proposal efforts so that you can outmaneuver the top competitors and secure a winning spot.
To assess the competitors, analysts develop a non-cost evaluation model based on how the customer is most likely to review proposals to determine which competitor is worthy of an award. In order to create an eval model, you must understand how the customer will evaluate each proposal. There are several ways to determine this.
The first and most valuable source of the customer’s evaluation criteria is Section M of the customer’s Request For Proposal (RFP). This is where the customer provides detailed guidance regarding how they will evaluate proposals and make an award decision.
If, however, the procurement is in its early stages, there likely will be no section M to review because the customer has not yet released the RFP. In these situations, there are other options for developing an eval model, such as a Draft RFP (DRFP), the RFP from a prior iteration of the contract, other RFPs from the same customer, or even something like customer guidance provided in an industry day briefing.
Whatever source you use, carefully examine the language to determine the various evaluation factors the customer will use to assess proposals. These factors may include criteria such as technical approach, management approach, past performance, price, etc.
Once you have identified the various evaluation factors, it is important to also understand the relative importance of those factors. Assigning quantitative values (numbers/percentages) to each of the factors in the eval model is a useful way to calculate a numerical score for each competitor. This enables you to determine who has the highest score, and thus who is in the strongest position to win. The key to developing an effective eval model is to ensure that the factors and point values you assign closely mirror what the customer has indicated.
Building an eval model that reflects the way the customer is likely to review the proposals is just the first step. In order for the process to be helpful, you must populate the model with information on your potential competitors to determine where each is likely to stand. This requires solid research and analysis of your competitors’ capabilities, solutions, strategies, strengths, and weaknesses on the given opportunity.
Creating an eval model is closely connected with understanding the requirements. The more you understand your customer, the more accurate and valuable your eval model is likely to be.
In addition to giving you excellent intelligence on your competitors, an eval model will also reveal or reinforce what is true and what you believe about your firm. For example, an eval model can tell you if you have the internal capabilities to claim the winning position, or if you need to fill gaps or mitigate weaknesses by adjusting your strategy or teaming with other companies.
Eval models vary by client and by opportunity, and are very different if you are bidding on a product or a service. And remember, an eval model should be updated continually throughout the procurement process as you learn more about your competitors and yourself.