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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.