Discriminating your offer: 5 steps to competitive edge

As we look back on 2015 and ahead to the challenges of 2016, it is clear you must find ways to discriminate your bid from the competition. Discriminating your offer is especially difficult for service providers (vs. product providers) as the playing field is fairly level and more bidders are competing for less work. Market competition is a battleground, and your goal should be to win the war…or at least the must-win battles that comprise your target revenues.

This edition of the APMP-NCA Executive Summary eZine focuses on discriminating yourself from the competition. In my experience, five steps are key to gaining competitive edge.

  1. Understand your industry. First things first! In order to discriminate your bid, you must know who your competitors are. Amazingly, many companies have cut their competitive intelligence capabilities due to budget constraints. Reserve enough B&P dollars to at least research your industry and lines of business using subscription services, key word searches, and social media. Ask your customers their opinions as to who the best and worst companies are.
  2. Analyze the competitors. Studying the competition allows you to find weaknesses. Perform ethical stalking. Subscribe to their newsletters. Check out their employees on LinkedIn. Search social media. Buy a product and note the logistics of the sales process. Network and speak to executives as many of these leaders will brag about accomplishments. Take note and begin to brainstorm ideas for setting your bid apart.
  3. Put your findings to good use. Often, we gather information but fail to act on it. Once you understand the Who and the What, you can begin to identify the How. The How involves carefully perfecting your proposed strengths. By strengths, I mean ways you can exceed customer requirements without increasing costs. Strengths are not easy to identify in the services industry, but examples include creating the best customer service experience for increased user satisfaction; value-adds such as access to industry experts, training, research labs, and/or white papers; and/or increased efficiency and effectiveness through better Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and preventive action.
  4. Fly under the radar. Meet with the customer to express your strengths, but avoid showcasing these strengths in public forums. After all, your competitors are performing the same ethical stalking as you are. If your company is over-exposed, then competitors will respond by ghosting your company in order to gain market share. Create quiet opportunities with the advance work you do during the capture phase, with a focus on shaping upcoming bids in your favor and winning sole source work wherever possible.
  5. Continually improve. With increased competition, the only way to maintain your lead is to stay one step ahead of the competition. Continual improvement requires investment in understanding and growing capabilities to future advances in both products and services. It also requires that you keep existing customers more than satisfied by looking for ways to improve their experience through feedback loops and proactive improvement to retain their loyalty.

My goal for the upcoming year is to perfect our offering as a chapter. We want to better understand what you, our members, need and want and provide those offerings in a way that gains your loyalty and support for our chapter. APMP-NCA has a lot planned for you: Speaker Series, webinars, publications, networking events, the Mid-Atlantic Conference & Expo, our Member Appreciation Event, an improved Body of Knowledge (BoK), and more! We welcome both your feedback and your participation. Please contact me at lisa@apmpnca.org to provide kudos or constructive feedback and/or to volunteer for one of our committees. Welcome to APMP-NCA 2016!

By Lisa Pafe, Principal Consultant at Lohfeld Consulting Group. Lisa is a CPP APMP Fellow, PMI PMP, speaker, LinkedIn Publisher, and ISO Internal Auditor with more than 24 years of capture and proposal experience for small to large companies serving civilian and defense agencies. She is the President of the APMP-NCA and was the chapter’s Vice President and Speaker Series Chair for two years each. Prior experience includes: VP of Corporate Development at Ace Info Solutions, Inc.; President of Vision Consulting, Inc.; VP of Business Development for GovConnect, Inc.; and Director of Marketing for MAXIMUS, Inc. She holds a B.A. from Yale University, MPP from Harvard University and MIS from The George Washington University.

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Reprinted with permission from the APMP-NCA 2016 Winter eZine.