Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

Anti-Differentiators: Don't say these things unless you want your proposals to sound ordinary

Sounding like everyone else is not a winning strategy

Saying things that differentiate your offering from your competitors is a well-known best practice. Proposal writers spend a lot of time identifying differentiators and then working them into their proposals. At least they should. 

What we see in a lot of the proposals we review are things that do the opposite. People write things in their proposals that make them sound ordinary. You can’t be competitive and sound ordinary. We call these statements anti-differentiators. If you can’t write a great proposal built around your differentiators, you should at least try really hard not to base your proposals on anti-differentiators.

5 examples of anti-differentiators

Anti-differentiator: “Our company is fully capable of performing the required work on time and within budget.”

When you say that you can do the work, you sound ordinary. Everyone who is a potential competitor can do the work. Being able to do the work will not win you the bid. Doing the work in some way that is exceptionally better is what will win you the work. Talk about how your way of doing the work is superior or will deliver superior results instead of simply saying you can do the work. Adding “on time and within budget” to the list is like saying “pick us because we will do a merely acceptable job.”
When you claim that you will do the work exceptionally, no one will believe you. So don't say that you are an excellent performer, have a great track record, or will do a great job. Being exceptional must be proven. Ordinary companies claim all kinds of things without proving them. No one ever pays them any attention. No proposal evaluator ever told their boss that they should approve a proposal because the vendor they’d never heard of before said they are the industry leader. A company that proves they have a credible approach to mitigating the risks resulting in more reliable delivery will beat them every time.
Anti-differentiator: “Our company meets all of the qualifications required by the RFP.”

When you say that you are fully qualified, you sound ordinary. Everyone who is a potential competitor will be qualified. Being qualified will not win you the bid. Being over qualified will not win you the bid. However, being qualified in a way that matters and makes a difference can win you the bid. Focus on why your qualifications will make a difference and prove that it matters. A vendor that brags about “meeting all qualifications required by the RFP” will lose to a company that shows how their qualifications will result in better delivery or that simply offers better qualifications. Every time.
Anti-differentiator: “Our company will staff every position required for this project.”

When you say that you have the staff or that you’ll just hire the incumbent staff, you sound ordinary. Everyone who is bidding will claim to have the staff or be capable of getting them. And they’ll be just as credible as you are. Don’t just say that your staff or ability to get them is better, somehow.  Say what the impact of your better staff or ability to get them will be. And prove it.
Anti-differentiator: “We will meet all of the requirements in the Statement of Work (SOW).”

If you really want to sound ordinary, say that you’ll fulfill or comply with all of the contract requirements. Because everyone will say that and you’ll have lots of company. You’ll be one of many and just like all the rest. And it’s not even what the customer really wants. It’s merely the minimum of what they must have. What they want is someone who will do better than the contract requirements. Only if you’re going to say that you have to detail how you’ll do that and what the impact will be.
Anti-differentiator: “Our company delivers the best value.”

When you say that you or your approach provides the best value and leave it at that you sound ordinary. If you prove the value impact of what you offer is greater than the value impact of other offers, then you sound compelling. Only how are you going to do that? The best you can usually hope for is to explain the trade-offs and how the trade-offs you chose will strike the best balance between cost and performance. Skip trying to claim to be the best value. Your claim means nothing. The customer will determine who is offering the best value. And they’ll do it by considering the trade-offs. Information about those trade-offs that help them understand what matters is the kind of thing that customers cite as strengths on their proposal evaluation forms.

Don’t be the minimum

Anything that involves doing the minimum, meeting the requirements, and being capable, will always be anti-differentiators no matter how affirmatively you state them. Why would the customer choose a vendor who is merely acceptable over someone who is better? Any claims that are unproven, no matter how complimentary or grandiose, will also be an anti-differentiator. They do the opposite of what you intend and make you look like an ordinary, somewhat untrustworthy, vendor deserving of skepticism. Each anti-differentiator that you include in your proposal lowers your competitiveness. Don’t be ordinary because ordinary doesn't win. If you can’t find a real differentiator, at least just prove that you are good at what you do. Proof points can be differentiators.

Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

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.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free 46-page eBook titled "Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage" with selected articles from PropLIBRARY.

You'll be joining nearly a hundred thousand professionals.

Sign up
Not now
  • Create New...