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Bid Proposals | Ghosting your competition

 October 29, 2013
by Paul Heron

How to pre-empt your competitors’ arguments

Bid responses are different from most business communications. Bidders are in a zero-sum game. You not only have to score points—you also need to play solid defense.

Ghosting can help you do both. It involves setting up alternatives to your features and overall approach and arguing for your solution as the best option. Using the technique takes skill and needs to be situation-specific. Here are some examples.

Ghost to emphasize strengths

If your overall offer is strong, don’t count on evaluators to figure this out by themselves. Explain the trade-offs you made in choosing your approach. Show how your offer reflects your understanding of the prospect’s needs, budget constraints and sensitivity to risk.

If your closest competitor has a specific weakness (e.g. safety issues, weak support, poor delivery performance), ghost it by playing up your relative strengths in that area.

Ghost to offset weaknesses

Even small competitive disadvantages can sow doubts about your solution. How you address these will depend on the claim. A feature you lack can be countered by explaining its drawbacks (failure-prone, not required for performance, costly to repair). Counter a competitor’s expected approach by showing you considered it and why you dismissed it.

If you’re smaller than your main competitor, ghost the size argument by stressing your responsiveness, ability to provide a single point of contact and track record of successful projects. If larger, ghost with your depth of technical resources and bench strength.

Ghosting costs

If permitted by the costing format, use ghosting to explain why your solution is superior to alternative approaches that may result in a lower “sticker price.” Explain, for example, how your superior warranty will result in lower total cost of ownership.

Which of your features will your competitors ghost?

Anticipate ghosting by your competition and counter it in advance. The higher initial cost example above will invite ghosting and should be justified in both the narrative and cost volume.

Never mention competitors by name

This should be obvious. Naming competitors risks a negative reaction from evaluators and could provoke a legal response.

Avoid condescension and overuse

Ghosting is an education process that some evaluators may find “preachy.” Be sure to use restraint and have reviewers watch for instances that could cause offence.

Also, excessive ghosting—even if well done—will turn off evaluators. Plan your ghosting opportunities during the proposal strategy phase and deploy them where they’ll have the greatest impact.

Ghosting is covered in Complex2Clear’s Bid Process Audit. Click here to learn more.


Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 






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