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Gathering Competitive Intelligence Ethically

man researching on a computer

A common misperception is that “competitive intelligence” is synonymous with “corporate espionage.”  

Nothing could be further from the truth.  

Corporate espionage is an illegal activity where companies steal valuable information from their competitors in order to gain a competitive advantage.  It may involve tactics such as wiretapping or hacking into proprietary systems to gain unauthorized access to private information. In contrast, competitive intelligence is a legal and ethical activity that uses publicly available information to gain insight into a company’s capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, performance, and general approach, which can then be used to develop likely competitor strategies in a given competition. Competitive intelligence is a widely-used and valuable business practice that leads to developing customer-focused and competitor-countering strategies that improve a company’s probability of a win.  

With that said, it is important to understand the legal and ethical boundaries of competitive intelligence, so that your company will remain above reproach in all of its competitive intelligence efforts.  Following are a few best practices to keep in mind when gathering competitive intelligence:

Define Ethical for Yourself & Your Company

Ethical boundaries are ultimately determined by the customer. For example, in the federal contracting space, the customer is the US government. Because the US government is funded by the American taxpayer and is therefore accountable to them, federal agencies are obligated to ensure that the way they use their allocated dollars is completely fair and free of any fraud, waste, or abuse. This results in a very high standard for what is ethical. Other industries and other countries, however, may have different ethical standards. That’s why it’s so important for you to determine what your company’s definition of ethical is and direct everyone at all levels of the organization to follow those standards. 

Develop a Culture of Ethics and Integrity

Be careful to avoid any ethical gray areas so that you can avoid being removed from a competition because of a real or perceived breach of ethical boundaries. As you collect competitive data, make notes about where you found it. It could be important in the future in case you need to prove that it did not come from a protected source. Talk frequently and openly inside your company about the safe sources to tap for information-gathering and ways to steer clear of any ethical danger zones.

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Is An Incumbent “The Man Who Knew Too Much?”

Riddle me this. If knowledge is power, is it ever possible to know too much?

If you watch the 1956 blockbuster “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” you’ll find that Alfred Hitchcock apparently thought so, especially if that “man” was dabbling in the world of international espionage.

But what about the humble government contractor? Is it possible for them to know too much?

If you’re the incumbent who is rebidding in a government contracting scenario, you can absolutely find yourself in the position of knowing too much for your own good.

Let’s back up a bit…

Being an incumbent is a double-edged sword. On one hand, your experience with the customer has given you information that nobody else has. You know what they need, and what they really want whether those needs and desires are clearly spelled out in solicitation documents or not. As the incumbent, you have a level of understanding about what the customer really cares about in a way that your competition does not.

Now in some ways, this knowledge translates to a monstrous leg-up on those who are bidding against you. So what’s the bad news? If you don’t remember that the evaluation process is based on what the RFP actually says, you’re not going to win.

The winning bid will present a basic, reasonable, compliant, threshold solution that’s responsive to the requirements called out in the RFP. As the incumbent, you will need to confine your responses to those and resist submitting a gold-plated solution with a price to match. In this case, using your extra knowledge to provide a more complex solution, even when you are confident that what you’re offering is actually what the customer needs or wants, is a recipe for failure.

This is also time for a reality check. A lot of people believe that the incumbent always has an advantage over the rest of the field. Not surprisingly, incumbents tend to think the same thing. In reality, however, it’s just about 50/50 whether the incumbent wins or not.

It’s easy for an incumbent to fall into the trap of thinking, “My customer loves me. They won’t replace me” when the truth is your federal customer probably couldn’t care less about you. The agency needs a compliant threshold solution at the lowest possible price. It’s really that simple.

I’m reminded of an example from years ago. A special operations command put out a contract in search of a vendor who could customize and modify equipment on a really fast track. The winning contractor did an incredible job on the engineering and fabrication, but they dropped the ball completely on the administration of the contract. Although the contract specified that work would not commence without a task order, the contractor ignored those terms and conditions, causing a processing and billing nightmare for the higher-ups. The boots-on-the-ground folks were happy because they were getting their hands on the product fast, but the agency’s overall satisfaction with the vendor wasn’t great.

As the solicitation documents for this work were being prepared, another company learned about these issues through some savvy competitive analysis. They put together a proposal that promised not only timely, on-budget products but an administrative process that would keep the entire agency’s billing process on the rails. The winning contractor gave the government agency real-time access to their management system, allowing them to generate and authorize task orders immediately. This was innovative, responsive, and ultimately successful. The incumbent was unseated.

If you’re the incumbent, keep in mind the things you’ve learned about the agency’s “corporate personality” but forget value definitions. Answer the requirements. Nothing more. Providing a compliant threshold solution is far more likely to get you the win.

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OutsideIn™ Analysis: Seeing Yourself As Others See You

man examining analyses on wall

Capture teams in the government contracting world spend a lot of time trying to determine the right balance of solutions and strategies that will differentiate them from their competitors and make them more attractive to their customers. Deciding how best to position your company, understanding what your competitors know about you, and analyzing how that is likely to impact any potential decisions means challenging all your assumptions about your business. Our experience is that the best way to do that is through an unbiased view of your capabilities that is free from internal influence.

Traditionally, businesses have evaluated their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats from an internal vantage point. Known as an “inside out” strategy, this approach looks at what the company can accomplish using existing resources, typically by streamlining operations and reducing spending. While the “inside out” strategy may create short-term shareholder gains, this focus ultimately limits the company’s ability to note emerging trends and adapt to changing markets. 

A landmark book entitled Strategy from the Outside In: Profiting from Customer Value upended conventional wisdom about how to analyze a company and make improvements. This is the first reference in print to the concept of “outside in” thinking, an approach that uses customer trends as benchmarks for product and service development. Its premise is built on the idea that studying customer trends from an external perspective is the most effective way to design their strategy. 

At Richter & Company, we have adapted these strategies into a service called OutsideIn™ Analysis. By turning our proven competitive intelligence-gathering process onto you instead of your colleagues in the marketplace, we can leverage open-source research to identify how you, your team, your capabilities, and your solutions are being perceived. 

Our OutsideIn™ Analysis provides you with a third-party, objective assessment based on our independent research, interpreted using our sophisticated tools in light of our extensive experience. Only open-source material is collected and analyzed; no proprietary information is gathered. The earlier an OutsideIn™ Analysis can be performed in the capture process, the more effective it can be. 

Businesses can be slow to adopt an outside-in analysis because it goes against the grain of traditional systems planning. Whereas “inside out” thinking leverages software to smooth processes and increase efficiency for back-end systems, an “outside in” approach embraces forward-compatibility with an emphasis on designing systems based on emerging data to create value for the end user and solve evolving customer issues. 

As fast as the market changes, it’s increasingly important to know and understand your customers. In a down market, it’s a temptation to overlook the long view, instead of focusing on short-term strategies that will increase revenue and decrease costs. It’s proving more effective, however, for companies to focus on external trends, customer behaviors, and new technologies that are changing the industry landscape going forward.

OutsideIn™ Analysis is one of the best ways to help you see what your competitors are seeing, and in many cases, deliver the eye you need to win.

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Price-to-Win: The Trade-off Between Capabilities & Price

Competitive analysts studying

A big part of winning a deal in the federal marketplace depends on how effective your PTW (Price-to-Win) strategy, or position, is. Keep in mind that a winning PTW position starts with a bottom-up analysis based on the requirements spelled out in the solicitation documents, but it doesn’t stop there. In order to arrive at an effective PTW strategy, you also need to consider open-source data and a set of defensible assumptions…

…which brings me to the most important thing about Price-to-Win. PTW isn’t a number. It’s not the amount you need to bid to win the deal. Think of PTW as a strategy or a position that represents the trade-off between the capabilities you offer within the context of your understanding of the customer’s requirements, and the cost, price, and strategy they will use to evaluate proposals. (Also keep in mind that what is used in government contracting is an artificial construct meant to create an “apple to apples” comparison.)

It’s important to keep in mind that we bid on work for different reasons, and the price we submit reflects those motivations. If our objective is to win the deal at all costs, we will offer to perform the contract’s requirements at a price that’s well below what we expect everyone else to offer. I’ve heard of federal contractors positioning themselves to win jobs at all costs to inflate the company’s value in light of a near term sale. Companies who are entering a new marketplace who want to take the field by storm may be willing to offer an extremely low price in order to make a splash, get their foot in the door, and earn a little brand recognition. And in those cases when we are asked to bid by a customer who is concerned about the level of competition, our courtesy bid is likely to be too high to win.

Depending on your motives, you can throw something over the transom that’s either artificially high or low to protect yourself against the win or to maximize your chances of being awarded the contract.

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Identifying Your Competitors: How Wide Should You Cast Your Net?

Winning government contracts requires a lot of preparation. Would-be contractors spend hundreds of hours developing capture strategies and crafting compelling proposals, as well as (hopefully) assessing the competition. A successful competitive intelligence effort will identify the overall approach, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each credible competitor, but this requires early identification of who those competitors are likely to be. An overly narrow focus risks missing one or more key competitors (surprises are bad), but an overly wide focus drains resources (like trying to boil the ocean).

So how wide is too wide to cast your net?

A textbook capture effort begins very early, well in advance of the customer releasing a Request for Proposal (RFP) and preferably even before word of the opportunity has hit the streets. This requires strong customer intimacy and keen market insights, but that’s a topic for another day.

Regardless of how your organization learns of an opportunity, your competitive intelligence effort should begin immediately and continue in sync with the capture effort. At this early phase, competitive intelligence begins with the critical step of identifying who the companies are that will likely bid against you.

There’s an obvious trade-off in starting this process so early; the less you know, the more you must assume. Alternatively, if you wait to assess the competition until you know who they are, it may be too late to make any needed course corrections. Therefore, the competitive intelligence effort is charged with making early predictions about who the competitors will be. But how?

An early prediction of which companies are likely to bid against you is based almost entirely on capabilities. Who in the industry has the capabilities required to submit a credible bid on the opportunity in question? Answering this question will require some research, but not as deep a dive as you will need to do later as the field narrows. For now, look at the websites and other marketing literature of would-be competitors. Read their capabilities statements. Review their list of past contract awards and compare that against their claims to assess their credibility.

It’s important to note that the government’s procurement strategy nearly always changes and evolves, making its requirements clear. As they become more specific, some competitors will drop out. This is the time to dig deeper into the contenders. Look at their strategies, unique strengths and weaknesses, and present and past clients. After you’ve done that, you can narrow your assessment down even further by reaching out directly to those companies to discuss any interest they might have in the bid. Look into their key personnel and find out what kinds of things they have historically shown interest in pursuing.

Be prepared for the evolution of the bid to involve huge jumps. What starts as a full and open competition may morph into a small business set aside, completely changing everything about the process.

Keep in mind that securing a government contract is an iterative process. As the government’s requirements become clearer, you can re-focus your lens based on those things to get a better idea of who your competitors are and the strategy you need to employ to win the contract.

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Evaluating Your Competitors’ Capabilities: Where to Start?

It goes without saying that winning government contracts requires a thorough and intimate understanding of the customer’s wants and needs. In positioning to win, however, it is equally important to understand how other companies (competitors) will attempt to meet those needs. In attempting to study and evaluate your competitors, one of the most fundamental questions to answer is “What do they do?” What are your competitors’ capabilities, and how do they apply?

In evaluating competitor capabilities, start with each of your potential competitor’s websites. Read their capabilities statement. What do they say they can do? What do they list as their products and services? What type of prospects do they target, or have they targeted in the past?

Now take it to the next level. Try to match their claims against reality. They may say they have capabilities in “cybersecurity,” but what type? Do they develop products or just implement other company’s software? Are they all about comprehensive strategies, or do they have a niche? Do they specialize in general prevention, rapid detection, and response, or is their focus endpoint, cloud, application, or network security? Most reputable competitors will not deliberately misrepresent their capabilities intentionally, but you can bet they will exaggerate to make them sound as good as possible. It’s up to the savvy and tenacious analyst to drill down and verify that any claims that competitors make are accurate.

Even an accurate list of capabilities doesn’t tell the whole story. What really matters is whether the competitor has actually put a capability they claim into action …and if so, when, where, and for whom? These are the details that put teeth into your competitors’ claims. Are there testimonials from clients on their site? Finding convincing and compelling evidence that your competitor’s capabilities have been put into action effectively on behalf of a client is what gives them credibility.

Make it a point to find out not only which contracts your competitors have been awarded, but how those projects turned out. Were the contracts shortened or even cancelled because of cost overruns, problems with making deadlines, or other deficiencies? Following a competitor’s social media accounts can also be revealing.

One helpful tool for evaluating competitors’ capabilities is called a Most Important Requirements (MIR) assessment, where you create a list of the customer’s most important requirements and rate each competitor against each of those requirements. This will show you how your competitor’s strengths will align with what the eventual RFP will be looking for. 

Evaluating your competitors will teach you a lot about your business and broaden your knowledge of the industry so that you can refine your business strategy, craft winning bids, and grow your company.

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Profit & Fee Are Good Things, But They’re Not the Only Things

The goal of every business is to remain in business.

In order to do that, the business has to make a profit. True, that may be a long term goal. It’s entirely possible that a business may make money one year and lose money the next — but at the end of the day, profit is a goal and an expectation. 

If you look in any business school textbook, you’ll find profit identified as “cost + fee.”

I believe that in today’s hypercompetitive environment, that definition is too narrow. 

I think a better formula now is profit = cost + strategy.

The reason is that, in the short term, customers often have business goals and objectives that may or may not include profitability. For example….

Say you’ve never worked in a certain marketplace before, and you want to arrive on the scene in a big way. To enter the marketplace in a way that gets you noticed, you may decide to bid on a project at a rate that doesn’t include profit. Heck, you may decide to even bid at a loss, especially if you know that the customer is likely to award based on low price simply to either gain market share or announce your presence in the contracting arena by securing the award. 

I frequently tell prospective vendors entering the federal marketplace that no U.S. contracting officer has ever gone to jail for selecting the lowest price. In fact, contracting officers frequently have incentive to pick the lowest price. Therefore, it is not outside the realm of possibility for a contracting officer to approach a competitor and try to negotiate the amount of profit contained in the submission. If your goal is profit, there are tactics you can use to protect the margin you have included that we’ll discuss in a future blog.

In addition, there may be times when the government agency really wants you to participate in the acquisition process. Under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) competition for bid awards is strongly encouraged. Contracting officers are looking for a minimum of three bids. They get uncomfortable when there are only two, and downright cranky when there’s only one. Reviewing only one bid for an RFP triggers all sorts of time-consuming tasks from FAR, so contracting officers work hard to ensure a competitive field. If you are asked to submit a bid that you are not in a position to service, creating a submission at a high price makes sense to avoid if not exclude selection.  

Are there other reasons for a contractor to submit a bid that are not driven by profit? Here’s one that’s underhanded and just this side of dishonest, but it serves to demonstrate how an unscrupulous company owner can manipulate the government contracting system for their own gain. Several years ago, a privately owned company wanted to sell. Their valuation was relatively low, which drove their asking price down. The owners developed a strategy that would inflate their revenue, making them look more appealing on paper. They bid on and won several high-dollar government contracts at impossibly low prices. The purchasing company spent the next five years on the verge of termination for cause on all of these projects because the pricing was artificially low and the contracts were nearly impossible to service. Again, driving the on-the-books revenue up to inflate the asking price was unethical, but it works within the owners dubious but nonetheless effective business strategy.

Fee and profit are very good things, but they are not the only things that determine why contractors go after programs. Sometimes, your business strategy creates goals that are better met outside of the conventional approach to profit and loss.

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Total Evaluated Price (TEP) v. Performance: What’s the Difference?

Let me start by acknowledging that when people say the federal contracting arena is complicated, it’s because of concepts like Total Evaluated Price (TEP).  After 30 years in the telecommunications and Federal industries, I’ve figured it out—and our team’s understanding of this and other federal-specific words and phrases has helped our clients win more than $30 billion worth of business. So let’s give it a try…

Because it’s important to have the big picture, an explanation of TEP has to start with a brief summary of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), for those who may not already be familiar. FAR is a set of principles that guide the government procurement process, including the purchase of goods and services. Codified in Title 48 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, FAR is prepared, issued, and maintained jointly by the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of General Services, and the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration subject to the approval of the Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy. Except for a few noteworthy agencies, including the USPS and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), all government agencies are required to comply with FAR. 

When doing an acquisition, United States government agencies must comply with a requirement defined within FAR for doing an evaluation of cost or price. There are different approaches for doing this, but at some point, all of them must arrive at a total price upon which the award decision will be made. 

Here’s the challenge: TEP is a purely artificial construct. It does not have to reflect reality.

Let me give you a few examples:

A few years ago, a government agency released a solicitation for an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, the vehicle typically used to acquire service contracts, or architect/engineering services. IDIQ awards are usually for base and option years during which the government places delivery orders for supplies, or task orders for services against a basic contract for individual requirements.

For this particular $100 million IDIQ contract, the agency wanted to include as many awardees as possible. The overall solicitation included 150 labor categories to be priced over a 10-year period. The government was able to achieve its goal and remain within FAR requirements by stating that it would award based on the submitted hourly rate of one junior level programmer/analyst during, thereby keeping the door open to anyone who wanted to bid.

Another example involves the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles, the light tactical vehicles designed to withstand damage from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Designed and fielded through an accelerated acquisition process that employed concurrent production, testing and fielding in order to meet the urgent requirements of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the MRAP vehicles were eventually found to have a significant issue while in use. When the MRAPs were hit with an IED, the Marines inside survived, but they couldn’t get the doors open. Designed to be opened only in an upright position, the heavy doors were unworkable when an explosion caused the MRAP to overturn or land on its side.

The DOD needed to release an RFP for the design, fabrication, installation, testing, and fielding of assistance-devices for the doors so that they could be opened at any angle. Because the budgeting and allocation process could take up to five years, and the year in which the actual award would be made was unknown, the DOD wanted to guard against prospective contractors who might be able to glean inside information to game the system and inflate the price. The DOD was concerned that a bidder who had inside information might be able to game the system by inflating the price during the actual award year, and provide an artificially low price in the other years. By requesting TEP over a multi-year contract, the agency was able to better ensure that the pricing was on the straight and narrow. 

Remember that the TEP is an artificial construct, and the performance price is what the customer is actually going to pay. Next month we’ll talk about the strategies you can employ during the capture process to increase the probability of a win, profitability, or revenue. 

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Winning in the Federal Marketplace: Does the Incumbent Still Have the Advantage?

businessman-signing-contract

Time was when incumbents nearly always won the day in the federal marketplace. Typically, service contracts repeat themselves at the end of a 3–5 year contract period, and, despite the incumbent’s inherent advantage, federal agencies allow these contractors to bid on the repeat contract. I can’t give you the exact statistic, but I have been paying attention, and I estimate that it used to be that over 90 percent of incumbent contractors were successful in winning the contract again… and again.

It used to be that unless your Competitive Analysis (CA) was indicating that the incumbent was underperforming or had fallen out of favor for some other reason, submitting a bid was close to an exercise in futility. Government agencies used to view the transition from one contractor to another as costly and full of risk; therefore, come rebid time, the incumbent was more than likely to capture — again. Unfair? Maybe. But when you play in the government’s sandbox, they make the rules. You can take your pail and shovel and go home, or stick around and learn how to play the game when you are not the incumbent.

Today, incumbents have a very large target on their backs. Where at one time their past history with the federal agency was nothing but an advantage, in many ways, that’s changed. For one thing, incumbents have established price and performance expectations with the customer that may not be viable anymore. The incumbent’s numbers may have changed, yet the customer nevertheless expects the same pricing structure. Regardless, incumbents are often stuck with the structure and approach they’ve always used and may be penalized when they try to convert it to one that is more efficient and cost-effective now.

Another disadvantage the incumbent may have is that, at the end of the day, they know too much. You’ve probably heard the adage “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” If you believe that, you’ll understand when I mean when I tell you that, in the federal marketplace, a lot of knowledge is an even more dangerous thing.

Translation?

Anyone who’s been around the block even once in the federal contracting world knows that nothing is more important than 1. understanding what a solicitation’s requirements actually are, and 2. addressing them in meticulous detail. However, when an incumbent reads a new proposal from a contractor for whom they have worked — especially on the same contract — they often “read between the lines” rather than focus on what the solicitation is actually asking for. And that’s a big mistake.

Certainly, leveraging CA and your own intuition about the customer and their solicitation makes sense, but only up to a point. When you have knowledge about a customer that you have gained from experience, even if it’s not germane to the solicitation at hand, it can be difficult NOT to think you know more than the customer does about what they want. Thinking you understand what the customer really, really, REALLY wants more than they do is the beginning of the end.

Bottom line? If you’re a non-incumbent, you have a better shot at winning than you used to… especially if you follow a few basic rules that will amplify your advantages:

  1. Understand in detail what the solicitation requirements are. Whether you’re the incumbent or not, you need to understand what represents the most value to the customer. That said, as a non-incumbent, you have the advantage of viewing a solicitation with fresh eyes, making you more likely to focus on what’s actually being requested, and that’s a big plus. 
  2. Understand how the evaluation process will be performed. Do your homework so you can understand the process the decision-makers are likely to use as well as any bias that the people doing the evaluation may have. Address these, but make absolutely certain your response sticks to the requirements as written and that you adhere scrupulously to the eval process.
  3. Create a solution. Your solution needs to be minimally compliant with the requirements defined at a price point that is competitive with where you believe the incumbent will be in the competition. This is no time to show off. Don’t provide too much value. You don’t want to be kicked to the curb because your solution is either too expensive or not achievable.

Finally, capture strategies are very much based on “What have you done for me lately?” Incumbents tend to think that the customer is more invested in their future working relationship with them than they probably are. It’s a mistake to think that a customer you’re currently working with really, really, REALLY wants to keep you and will do so at all costs. After 30 years in the federal marketplace, I can tell you that if someone else builds a better mousetrap and/or at a lower price point, most customers are all over it, which is good news for the non-incumbent.

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Assessing the Competition with a Non-Cost Evaluation Model

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.