Winning contracts – it’s all about who you know

By Lisa Raftery|May 25, 2022

How often have we heard a sales executive justify their non participation in an RFP process – “I’m not going to bother competing for that, it’s all about who you know”.

Well, it’s true. It is exactly about who you know and how well you know them. You must know your target customer; the buyer. You must know their motivations, their pain points, their sources of trust and influence, their buying patterns and why they have issued this particular RFP at this particular time.

You must know your competitors. To win a competition, you need to understand who you are competing against. To create points of differentiation, you must know your competitors offer before you can argue that your offering is superior. 

You must consider who else might be a competitor. Who is making noise in the market? Who is making moves into your market? Are there companies that you have never competed against before, but may be winning similar type contracts in parallel markets? What are the drivers of behaviours in your market and who is leading these behaviour changes?

Competitive Intelligence

This customer, competitor and market knowledge all comes under the Competitive Intelligence (CI) heading. CI is the ethical gathering and analysis of competitor, customer and market information from open sources. This analysis is used by organisations to make better strategic decisions. It is the difference between competing and winning.

Examples of easily accessible intelligence about your customer and competitors include:

  • Messaging / Positioning changes
  • Job Postings
  • Reviews – customer and employee
  • Pricing changes
  • Employee turnover

Why should I care about CI?

Your organisation’s survival may well depend on the knowledge that you can acquire from and about your prospects and market competitors. Procurement is becoming increasingly transparent and successful companies are those that can demonstrate that they understand their clients’ needs as well as favourably positioning themselves in comparison to other suppliers. Embedding competitive intelligence as a core management process is increasingly the hallmark of the most successful companies across every market.

Embedding CI into my organisation

Make the acquisition and safe-guarding of CI part of your normal business operations. Besides collecting and managing this information, it must be accessible to all your team – think about who the key people are that require this information and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access and update it. To embed CI in your organisation, make sure it is :

  • Systematic
  • Measurable
  • Transparent
  • Accessible
  • Actionable
  • Maintained
  • Reviewed
  • Safe

Where can I gather this information?

Besides the obvious sources like company websites and social media accounts, also use Google News alerts and Google Trends to create profiles of your target customers as well as your main competitors. 

Previous award notices. Review the availability of public sources to look at who last one a contract with your target customer and what contracts your competitor has recently been awarded. Find out who the key stakeholders and influencers are in these organisations – what is your engagement strategy for each

Reviewing these notices over a long time period e.g.5 years will tell you when the contract is next due for renewal. Build your market knowledge by understanding the timeframes of these contracts, as well as the value size. Plot past award notices, with those companies that are winning these contracts, and you have a pretty clear picture of your competitive landscape.

Finally use your organisation’s own human intelligence to identify and explore potential mutual connections and influencers. Once they are identified, ensure you capture this in your RFP response tool or CRM.

Remember that CI is more concerned with understanding the big picture and having the right perception of the marketplace than trying to precisely quantify or qualify competitive threats and business opportunities. Each time you participate in an RFP process, you learn a little more about what it takes to win. This, in turn, is crucial market intelligence and must be recorded to allow you to adapt and learn for the next competition. Remember, it’s about who you know – and that includes yourself.

Bid. Win. Repeat. Grow.


Lisa Raftery

Senior Content Marketing


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