What is a Black Hat Review?

Cloaked in mystery, no two are ever the same...

Like color team reviews, I have never seen two companies conduct Black Hat Reviews the same way. At a high level, a Black Hat review is a competitive assessment to address who the competition is and their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a Black Hat review scores your company and your competition against the anticipated evaluation criteria to determine who has what advantages, and what to do about them. At a minimum, a Black Hat Review should help you discover how to best position your company against its competitors, and what differentiators to focus on in your proposal.

There are many techniques for acquiring and assessing competitive intelligence. These range from simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to more sophisticated methodologies. The technique you use is less important than your diligence at implementing it. However, like risk assessment and quality assurance, if you don’t implement a formal methodology, you won't consistently get good results.

Also, any assessment is only going to be as good as the data it's based on. Gathering good competitive intelligence takes time. If you simply bring all the stakeholders into a meeting and ask them what they know about the competition, you will not get the best data to work with. You must collect and validate competitive intelligence data throughout the lead qualification and capture phases of the pursuit if you are going to have solid data to assess at a Black Hat review.

See also:
Proposal quality validation

The key to a successful Black Hat review is to translate what you know about your competition into action items. And those action items should not simply be to fill in the holes in what you should already know. The action items coming out of a Black Hat review need to affect your capture and proposal strategies in ways that will impact your odds of winning. Otherwise, it’s an academic exercise that doesn’t affect your chances (this is a fancy way of saying “a waste of time”).

One set of action items that should come from a Black Hat review relates to teaming. A Black Hat review should tell you which companies are strong where you are weak and therefore make good teaming candidates, because you are more likely to win together than you are if you remain apart. It can also show you who you might want to take off the street by teaming with them. It may be better to give up a portion of the revenue by teaming with someone than it is to risk losing all the revenue in competition. Or not. A good Black Hat review should help you assess this quantitatively, by showing the effect on evaluation scoring of different teaming scenarios. That’s another reason that formal competitive assessment methodologies can be valuable. They help you look at things objectively by providing the means to rank and score the competition.

Finally, a Black Hat review should help you finalize your win strategies. Win strategies cannot be developed in isolation from your competition. It's not enough to simply articulate to the customer why they should select you. You must also be able to say why they should select you, rather than your competition. A Black Hat review can help you formally position yourself against the competition instead of just guessing, the way most people (including your competitors) do.


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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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