Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Bid Proposals | Using trade-offs and ghosting

 October 27, 2015
by Paul Heron

Our last three posts emphasized the importance of targeting each proposal to a specific prospect and project, understanding how your offer and competitive solutions intersect with the issuer’s needs, and how to integrate issues into your bid strategy.

This post covers trade-offs and ghosting, two techniques that will improve your proposal’s responsiveness and competitive positioning.

Use trade-offs to demonstrate understanding

Trade-offs show you have carefully considered and dismissed alternatives to your offer. A trade-off can be based on any prospect issue, including wants and needs, risks and budget. Here are two examples addressing specific client issues:

  • Desire for on-time completion:  “We typically use one paving contractor on this size project, but have included two on our proposed team. This will require more coordination on our part, but increases deadline certainty, even in the case of unexpected delays.”
  • Need for high reliability: “We considered the AR470-B, which complies with the RFP requirements, but selected the AR580-B for its superior reliability due to the high cost of downtime for your operations.“

Use ghosting to improve your competitive position

Ghosting uses trade-offs to offset competitor strengths, exploit competitor weaknesses, reinforce your relative strengths and defend your perceived weaknesses. For example:

  • Ghost your closest competitor’s weaknesses (e.g. safety issues, weak customer support, poor delivery performance), by playing up your relative strengths in that area.
  • Ghost a competitor’s richer feature set by explaining its drawbacks (expensive, failure-prone, not required for performance, costly to repair).
  • Ghost your relative size. If your company is smaller, 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 service footprint, depth of technical resources and bench strength.

Pre-emptively ghost a price disadvantage by explaining 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.

NOTE: Never mention competitors by name. Naming competitors risks a negative reaction from evaluators and could provoke a legal response.

Avoid condescension and overuse when ghosting

Some evaluators may find ghosting preachy. Be sure to use restraint and ask reviewers to watch for instances that could cause offence.

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



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