In this episode, I’m covering Ghosting, a technique you can use to trash your competition without naming names.

You write a proposal to demonstrate that you’re better than your competitor, but it’s not appropriate to say negative things about your competition or their services. I use the term Ghosting for the technique of trashing your competitors without trashing them directly. With a good understanding of the differences between you and your competitor and how these will look to the client, you can use subtle techniques that get the client to look closer at the competitor’s claims and to cast doubt on some of them.

When describing the benefits of your technology, approach, processes and resources, you can provide a direct comparison to illustrate your point. The comparison may just happen to be something your competitor thinks is a benefit. If they haven’t described their benefits as well as you have, you may be able to convince the client that yours is superior and theirs is a risk.

Here’s as simple example of a small company Ghosting a much larger competitor in a proposal for a small, local client:

“We have focused on regionally-based clients instead of spreading resources across the country. Our client base is large enough to provide exceptional economies of scale and low costs without stretching nationally to the point that each client becomes just a line item in the profit and loss statement.”

The reason for this statement is to remind the smaller client that they will get better attention and service from the smaller supplier while inferring that the competition can’t provide the same attention.

You can use this in every aspect of your proposal, but use it carefully. Don’t ever mention the competition since you don’t want to acknowledge them or have the client see that you’re putting them down directly. You want it to be more subconscious.

The more you know about your competition and the client’s needs, the easier this will be. Focus on areas where you’re different and see whether you can ghost them on those differences. Before you start to write, list the benefits or attributes you have and the ones they have, and then see if you can flip theirs into negatives.

The idea is to plant the seed of doubt in the reviewer’s mind.

Another way to do this is by including a checklist of features and related benefits or even risks. You can do this with your technical solution, your systems, processes resources, experience, etc. Expand the list to include features you don’t have but your competition does have, and identify the risks or even the benefits if they aren’t as compelling as your benefits. This not only gets your message across, it makes it easy for the reviewers to think about the differences between you and your competition – crafted to benefit you, of course.

Another example is how you compare to other market solutions. For instance, if your software systems are developed and maintained in-house, you can quantify the benefits over an off-the-shelf solution used by your competitor. The competitor will also do the same in reverse, so think about the benefits their approach has and what they may say about yours, and be sure to counter those points.

If the proposals are being compared against each other, your ghosting efforts should influence the relative scores. In many large, formal RFPs, reviewers look at each individual proposal one at a time, and come up with their score using a matrix that ranks you against a standard or expectation. Since there will be more than one reviewer, the other reviewers may start with a different proposal, so it doesn’t matter what order they do it in, the results will even out. Simply ensure that when they get to yours, the reviewers will either adjust your score upwards relative to the ones they just reviewed, or adjust the next ones they review down based on your information. While the evaluators may intend to evaluate each proposal on its individual merits, they’re human and your ghosting will impact their scoring.

Ghosting is a subtle technique but it can make a big difference in how your proposal is evaluated and scored. I cover many other techniques in the book.


Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website

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