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Black Hat reviews

 November 28, 2017
by Paul Heron

Many bidders on large, complex projects conduct a Black Hat review, in addition to a Blue Team review, before kicking off the proposal process with writers, designers and subject matter experts.

As the name implies, black hat reviewers adopt a competitor’s perspective to probe your strategy for weaknesses. The goal is to analyze your proposal plan from the client’s viewpoint and to strengthen areas where one or more competitors are likely to score higher.

To do their job, Black Hat Team members need to satisfy two criteria:

  • Think independently of the Blue Team and the proposal team, and
  • Possess deep understanding of both the client and likely competitors

Achieving independence can be challenging in small and even mid-sized companies. It is even more critical and difficult to find team members with keen insight into your competition. To meet these requirements, some bidders in high-stakes competitions hire outside consultants to provide the needed distance and expertise.

A black hat review should focus on these areas:

  • Is your solution competitive? Most Blue Teams focus on the solution’s responsiveness to RFP requirements and the evaluators’ key issues. This review will comb through the proposal plan for how well your response compares to competitive offerings and areas where you may have underestimated a competitor’s strengths.
  • How strong are your differentiators? How do your experience, performance, team and understanding of the client and project stack up against known competitors? How competitive is your price? Have you missed opportunities to ghost a competitor on one or more issues?

Incumbency issues

If you are the incumbent, which issues in the current contract are competitors likely to exploit? Conversely, how popular is the incumbent you’re seeking to unseat and what are your points of attack? How is the incumbent likely to defend itself against losing the rebid?

Keep Black Hat feedback positive and action-oriented

Be sure to set the ground rules before a black hat review. Rather than simply picking apart your bid strategy, the team needs to offer concrete ideas for addressing each weakness it finds.

For example, having identified weak experience in some aspect of the project, the team could identify a partner to team with—and even name the best person to contact.

BOTTOM LINE: A Black Hat Team review can add great value—if you recruit the right team members and insist on constructive feedback.


Need help facilitating effective proposal strategies?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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