One of the best ways to get competitive intelligence on a competitor is to request the competitor’s response to a government agency procurement, such as a proposal submitted in response to a Request for Proposal. This is done by submitting a request via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or equivalent.
One note: this technique primarily applies to government agency procurements, since governments are often required by law to disclose this information. Bids submitted to private entities usually remain private.
Of course, actually getting the competitor’s response isn’t easy.
- First, you have to submit the request in the proper format.
- Second, you have to be detailed in what you are requesting, and you need to request everything that you want: the actual proposal itself, any follow-up correspondence such as a best and final offer, the agency’s evaluation score, and everything else. If you only request the original proposal, the agency is only obligated to provide the original proposal, and nothing else.
- Third, you have to wait for the agency to prepare a copy of the proposal. Depending upon applicable law, the bidder may be able to redact portions of the proposal, and it usually takes some time for the agency and the bidder to agree on what can legally be redacted.
- Fourth, you may have to pay (usually on a per-page basis) to receive the materials.
This entire process may take several months, and you can’t even request the material until after the procurement has been awarded, or perhaps contracted.
But guess what? You don’t always have to submit a FOIA-like request to get a copy of a proposal submitted to a government agency.
And no, you don’t have to break the law; these proposals (and other valuable documents) can be obtained legally and ethically.
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