• Deb Yeagle

Know Your Competition: #7 Capture Process Improvement Lesson Learned


(7) Know your competition.


Performing market research of the customer environment for any bid will reveal information about other contractors who have a presence and are currently performing within that environment. These contractors are potential competitors (or teammates). Why is knowing your competition important?

- Information about any incumbent contractor status / performance and other potential competitors informs your bid / no bid decision making and prime / subcontracting bid strategy

- Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competition is essential for developing an effective win strategy


To truly know your competition, you need to perform a rigorous competitive analysis. This analysis involves applying market research techniques to uncover the following information:

- Contract Action / Modification History: Determine the type of requirement (new or ongoing). For ongoing requirements, identify the incumbent contractor, any option years that are not exercised, or any contract bridge activity that has delayed in the re-compete.

- Incumbent Contractor Performance: Obtain an indication of whether or not the incumbent contractor is performing well enough to win the re-compete. Incumbent contractors have at least a 50% probability of winning (Pwin) for re-competes, assuming satisfactory performance. Key indicators of performance include: number of re-competes won, early re-competes (option years not exercised), and advance pre-solicitation notices.

- Incumbent Contractor Size Status: Obtain an indication of acquisition strategy (Full & Open vs. Small Business Set-Aside). Agency small business goal status and the size of complexity of contract may influence the acquisition strategy, even when the incumbent is a large business (the Government performs market research to decide on a small business set-aside). Note: For a prior award as a set-aside, the incumbent contractor may have “graduated” from SB size status since the original contract award.

- Competitive Pricing Data: Obtain an indication of required level of competitive pricing.

- Customer Spending by Contractor and Contracts for Similar Products / Services: Obtain knowledge of the agency’s top contractors and related contracts to identify potential competitors and/or teammates.


A competitive analysis is most thoroughly performed through a Black Hat Analysis, to critically assess competitors’ solutions and review their potential strategies, as an insightful method for updating your win strategy. The purpose of the Black Hat is to:

- Analyze prime competitors’ capabilities, past performance, solutions, and Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats (SWOT).

- Anticipate prime competitors’ proposed key personnel, team, and pricing approach.

- Identify competitors’ potential win themes, differentiators, discriminators, and win strategies.


Upon completion of the Black Hat, you can update your win strategy to:

- Counter competitors’ win strategies,

- Neutralize competitors’ strengths, and

- Take advantage of competitors’ weaknesses, and

- Identify additional capture activities and actions to increase your Pwin.


The Black Hat analysis technique is most effective when performed as a competition:

- Staff members take on the identity of their assigned prime competitor to develop and deliver an orals presentation to a Mock Source Selection board (SSB).

- Mock SSB members take on the identity of actual SSB members and evaluate the orals presentation based on actual criteria used as basis for award to select the “awardee.”

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Copyright 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 by Plan To Win, Inc. 

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