Black Hats and Good Guys: How the deal is won

How do you know who the bad guys are in the old TV Westerns? It was easy, they wore black hats. They were the ones that held up trains, robbed people and basically caused trouble for the town.

And just when things looked bleak, the good guys came along and fought the bad guys to save the day. 


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In capture management, we have our own western showdowns. We call them Black Hats. Before we hold a Black Hat Session, we first have to determine who the bad guys are. They, of course, are our competitors who are pursuing the same opportunity.

We could be trying to maintain our incumbency or win a deal away from another company. Identifying these companies is not always easy. It takes research, the expertise and insights of agency and technology experts, and persistence at uncovering information it takes to make informed decisions. Once we determine who has the ill intent (to beat us), the research begins. To do our research, we use all their information and past plans and activities to assess the viability of their competitiveness. At that point, we can plan how to track these guys down and save the day (win the deal).

Ok – enough of the analogy. By now, you can see why it’s called a Black Hat. So, what’s done in a Black Hat? Every facilitator has their own style. Ours is based on making things up! That’s right, there’s no right or wrong here. 

We use available information and put together our best guess at how the competition will pursue the deal. At the Black Hat session, we break people into teams and model our competition. We try to figure out how our competition will approach the deal and then we come together and scare the bejeebers out of our capture team. As one of our recent participants said, “if you’re not scared, you’re not prepared.” 

It’s important to determine what differentiates us from our competitor team. We then define ‘Why us and not them’? Once everyone presents their perspectives, we take off our black hats and plan our strategy. We analyze what the client is asking for, what they really want, and create solutions to win the deal. It’s all about the customer, after all, we don’t want to offer a BMW when they really want a Volkswagen. 

Back to our Western story, as our sheriff and posse have done in the past, our capture team has strapped-on our holsters and jumped on our horses. Now that we know the bad guys’ plans, it’s time to ride out and start shooting. Before those bad guys get the gold, the good guys save the day. Then there’s peace once again in the town. And they live to prosper for another day.

About the Author

Helene Johnson is president of Bid2Win Consulting, a professional services Company focused on business development and sales positioning, capture, strategy, proposal support and advisory services.

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