Compete to Win, Price to Win and Propose to Win are not just catchphrases enveloping the pursuit process. They are bona fide factors that businesses must address as part of their bid strategies.
Market leaders in any area of product development and business score when they pay attention to winnable, deliverable and profitable solutions with fact-based competitive aggression and realistic pricing.
They may occasionally lose on price, an easy excuse to dispense and digest.
Where it can become an embarrassment is when bids are lost with a poor evaluation score for functionality. Market-leading solutions are expected to be feature-rich to justify any premium price they carry.
This is as much about getting the basics right, fixing dated architectures and functionality gaps, as it is about big investments on R&D focused on trends that are set to define the future.
Competitive Twists and Turns
For brevity, this post will be confined to the competitive twists and turns that call for businesses to stay alert to changing market dynamics.
My pursuit style is to identify win themes upfront and weave them into the proposals I write, with the solution value factoring in competitive threats and a prospect’s project drivers and evaluation criteria.
Ideas may be drawn through interactions with the corporate competitive intelligence team (most firms have one) for an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of those we compete against to build any opportunity-specific value proposition.
Generic discriminators will be irrelevant if they do not touch a prospect’s pain points.
Bid Managers Key in Driving Win Themes
Bid managers can differentiate themselves, too, by helping build competitive ammunition and be driven by wins. As for me, nothing motivates me better than contractual wins on the bids I help manage.
The role demands execution of everything within their means to enable deal-clinching submissions, utilising Shipley methodologies. I do that in my current position. After all, it is not just some lucky charms that help close deals.
When I was with Cisco, I had supported its FOCOM (Focus on Competition) team in helping with booklets on dealing with its key competitors (such as Huawei), working closely with SMEs / those familiar with rival products.
Enabling a Winning Submission
It is immaterial if that was in my job scope (it was not), my involvement in activities of this nature was largely because of my passion for helping enhance win probabilities. Bid management (or proposal management) is not about herding a swaying flock and keeping them aligned and focused. It is more about putting forth a compelling, compliant and potentially winning submission.
A kid-glove approach against competition may not lead us to where we want to go. While I will still stay old-fashioned and try not to slide into an all-out attack on a competitor by name, there is no harm in dropping hints with an indirect pitch. The differentiation can be targeted at competitors by name if that is based on an independent research report (such as that of Gartner).
Going soft on competition may be a timid, weak-kneed approach. An assertive tone is quite in order, but any aggressive positioning must be based on fact, not on what we assume to be true.
With fake news dominating social portals, proposals should not fall into that pit. Whether it is your R&D spend or market strength, if any objection can be handled with a credible defence that will serve you well.
G Joslin Vethakumar