You’ve done your research on your competitors. You checked your biases. You conducted an analysis of your competitor’s capabilities. Now what?
Do an objective evaluation of yourself. Why?
Competitive intelligence is a two-way street. Expect your competitors to be looking into your capabilities with the same intensity that you are analyzing theirs. It is important to be aware of the information that is out there on your own team, understand what strengths and weaknesses of yours can be perceived. This allows you to take action to mitigate competitor attempts as they do the same analysis of you that you did to them. They will assess your weaknesses. They will study and neutralize your strengths.
What benefits do I realize in a self-evaluation?
You may be thinking “I know what our team can do better than any competitor. I have better visibility and understanding of our capabilities than an outside competitor could possibly have “. While you may have the most detailed understanding of your specific qualifications for an opportunity, you may be overlooking broader strengths or weaknesses that are more visible from the outside. Conversely, you may be living in an echo-chamber of your own making with the misguided notion that nobody knows what you can really do.
Really? Remember the simple statement we have used in our blogs before.
“You are not a special little snowflake. You can be beaten.”
Doing a self-evaluation will help your team:
- Identify corporate strengths or weaknesses that may not be immediately linked to the opportunity – For example, if your capture team has been heads down on a Navy bid for the past month, you may be focused exclusively capabilities and past performance from that domain. Taking a step back might reveal some great success stories from adjacent but not immediately relevant customer portfolios. It may reveal SMEs and past performance outside your domain that are worth reaching out to and bringing into the capture effort.
- Prepare yourself for counters to competitor activities including ghosting, shaping – Assume your competitor is conducting an effective capture. They did a great Black Hat review against you. A self-evaluation helps you more clearly understand any strengths and weaknesses of yours that would be visible to an outsider. Based on this, we can predict what a competitor might be doing behind the scenes to dampen your strengths and emphasize your weaknesses. You can begin to counter-plan through targeted shaping, white-papers, customer outreach, and more.
- Get an objective view of your position on your solution– An objective self-evaluation serves as a sanity check for the capture team on their solution and position. Have some of your peers who are not involved in your capture to execute a self-evaluation against you. The core capture team may get caught up in a specific part of the solution that is not a core discriminator when compared to the big picture opportunity.
Now that we understand the value of a self-evaluation, the next question is how to execute one.
Use people and resources not directly invested in this capture – It can be extremely difficult for capture personnel who are directly involved in the solution to form an objective view of your company. Even the most thorough capture team will still fall prey to biases. If we are intellectually honest about our objectivity, the core capture team is generally too invested in the capture to realize its weaknesses. Reach out to business development or capture resources, internal or external, who have no stake in this bid and who have not had significant exposure to your current solution.
Follow the same processes that you used to examine competitors when examining yourself – Make sure this is a fair evaluation, don’t try to inflate your position or taint the process with inside understanding that wouldn’t be known from the outside. However, just because a capability is not marketed on your corporate website does not mean a competitor can’t figure it out. Be thorough in your examination of your company’s contract spending data trail, personnel data from LinkedIn, reported subcontractors, etc. Check out our series on business development process for tips.
Competitive intelligence drives the game of chess that is capture and proposal development. If you know how your opponent will be trying to counter you, it’s an opportunity to turn the tables on them. Assert the strengths that really matter. Pre-emptively defend your gaps. Use self-evaluation to make sure you are always one step ahead of your competitors.
Stay focused. Do your homework. Happy hunting!
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