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22 ways to beat your competitors through differentiation

You can't win unless your proposal is different


What are you going to offer to beat your competition? Sometimes the RFP forces you to bid the exact same thing as everyone else. Or so it seems. The customer wants to be able to compare apples to apples when they have to make a selection. However, you need to stand out from the other bidders in order to get selected.


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So what should you bid? It seems that you only have two choices: Offer the same thing as your competitors or offer something different. But is that really true?

What about offering the customer the same thing as your competitors, only:

  1. Developed or delivered in a different way?
  2. Producing better results?
  3. With more reliability?
  4. With more credibility based solely on a better proposal?
  5. With more future options?
  6. With more growth potential?
  7. With more flexibility?
  8. Delivered faster?
  9. Better integrated?
  10. With better after sales support?
  11. With a better warranty or guarantee?
  12. With more accountability or transparency?
  13. With better risk mitigation?
  14. With a better attitude or friendlier service?
  15. In a way that is more convenient?
  16. In more sizes or better quantities?

If you do offer the same thing, you must meet the competition head on and overpower them with a much better offering. Or underprice them. If you are required to bid the exact same thing as your competitors, it may not be possible to have a better offering. It’s easier, not to mention more profitable, to be different.

This is another place where you can apply the “who, what, where, how, when, and why” approach that we recommend for proposal writing. Think about how to differentiate your offer by changing:

  1. Who participates in or benefits from the projec
  2. What you do or deliver
  3. Where you work, produce, deliver, or support your offering
  4. How you work, produce, deliver, or support your offering
  5. When you work, produce, deliver, or support your offering
  6. Why you approach it the way you do and what the results will be for the customer

If you can’t change it, then identify it, make it clearer, or just better describe the results for the customer or how they will benefit from it. That alone can set you apart and make you a more attractive source.

When you offer exactly the same thing as everyone else, you compete on price. When you offer something different, you compete on value. When you offer the same thing, only you do it in a different way, you gain the ability to offer them something better, without increasing your price. If the RFP is so specific that you can’t have a better offering, then you can still be a better source. In fact, other than price, there might not be anything else for the customer to consider. The customer is looking for differences, so make them clear. Give the customer a clear choice, even if it’s for the same deliverable.

No matter how hard the RFP tries to force you into bidding the same thing as everyone else, you can always be different. In fact, you have to be different in order to be better. You must learn to want to be unusual. If you can’t achieve that, you can’t be exceptional. But it all starts with offering the customer a difference. The question is whether it's a difference that matters to the evaluators. In choosing how to be different, what matters to the evaluators should be your most important consideration.  

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