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7 advanced techniques for ghosting the competition and winning your proposals

How to explain why the customer should not select your competitors

Ghosting the competition is an advanced proposal skill. It involves explaining why the customer should not select your competitors. It is best when:

  • Ghosting comes after proving why they should select your proposal. You shouldn’t play on the dark side until you’ve established your inherent goodness. And even then, use it with care.
  • Ghosting should also be handled indirectly, so that instead of being a direct attack it is more of a consideration that just happens to paint them in a bad light.
  • You don’t name names unless you are certain in your fact-checking and provide the proof. Even then I’d avoid it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a proposal there. 

In the right circumstances, ghosting the competition has strategic value and can impact the evaluation of your proposal. Plus it’s fun to be a tiny bit snarky. Think of ghosting the competition as subtly educating the proposal evaluators by dropping hints. If ghosting informs them of important things they need to know before they make a selection, then it delivers value to the customer and is not simply casting aspersions. But use it with care since being snarky can backfire. 

Techniques for ghosting the competition throughout your proposals
This article is about techniques. PropLIBRARY Subscribers can also click here for 23 examples of wording that you can use when ghosting the competition. Here are some ways to employ ghosting in various sections of your proposals:

See also:
  1. Experience. Why do customers care about experience? It often comes down to the customer not wanting things to go wrong. If you have experience, you should play up your ability to prevent that. And if you want to ghost against customers that don’t have experience, point out all the things that could go wrong without the experience that you have. Since no one will bid without being able to claim they have experience, you should expect them all to have it. With ghosting you can undermine the relevance and applicability of their experience. The key to this will be the examples you provide. Claims about the benefits of having experience without examples of how it provides advantages are not compelling. The same applies to claims of other experience not being relevant. 
  2. Staff. If you have the staff, then name names. Prove it. And ghost the competition by pointing out the recruiting risks. If you don’t have the staff, then you can still ghost the competition by providing a better approach to screening, qualifying, and onboarding staff. Don't forget to include everything that the staff will need to be successful, so that you can end up with better staff. Ask yourself, "What does the customer care about regarding staffing?" Is it speed of project startup, performance of the staff, coverage, or the risk of disruption to something ongoing? Provide more of what the customer cares about, while ghosting against those who don’t or who merely say they’ll meet the requirements.
  3. Approach. Why did you decide to do things the way you did? What could go wrong if you didn’t? That’s what you need to explain in order to ghost your competition. Show that your approaches will succeed and explain why. Use those explanations to show why others who don’t follow your approach or don’t cite the issues you do may fail. Then let them compare the approaches. Simply providing the details, examples, or proof points gives your proposal strengths when others fail to mention them. Especially when you add what might happen if the customer selected a proposal that didn’t mention those things.
  4. Pricing. What must be reflected in the pricing for it to be reasonable? What must be accounted for? What bad things might result if a competitor’s pricing doesn’t account for or mention the things you did? What might surprise the buyer?
  5. Transition. Incumbents often get lazy and cite transition superiority without proving it. You can steal contracts from incumbents by showing that there are considerations that if not accounted for can cause disruptions even by the incumbent. When you are thorough and account for every little detail, you not only mitigate the risk for the customer of selecting you, you can introduce risk if they do not select you. When projects can fail right at the beginning, transition plans matter.
  6. Quality. If quality matters to the customer, then don’t treat it as a mere requirement. Show that you will achieve what matters about quality and ghost your competitors as merely following procedures and not achieving the right goals.
  7. Resources. Companies make a lot of claims about resources, while at the same time making as few promises as possible. This is an opportunity to explain why all those resources that a competitor claims to have will never impact or be made accessible to the project. It is also an opportunity to offer resources that will and explain the positive impact they will have.

Special note regarding low price technically acceptable (LPTA) bids
If the customer will select the lowest price bid that meets their specifications and you are concerned you might not have the lowest price, all you can do is make sure that your proposal is the only one that is technically acceptable. Your proposal becomes about two things:

  • Proving that you meet the specifications
  • Proving that anyone who doesn’t do things the way you do will not be acceptable

Ghosting the competition may be your only chance of winning if your price is not the lowest.

Don't be a hypocrite

One of the things you will notice if you try ghosting is how important differentiation becomes. It's hard to point fingers at someone else if you are not any different. You should always give them a reason to select you that also implies a reason not to select someone else. Before you can do that you must be able to articulate why they should select you in a way that others will not also claim.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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