I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
How are you differentiating your company during bids for large, long-term contracts against highly qualified providers? The stakes are raised when all bidders are capable of providing a high-level of service, ongoing support, and competitive pricing.
When your company is competing at this level of strategic sales, it is critical to strengthen your point of differentiation. If you are unable to communicate what makes your company unique, price will become the main focus. The bidding process then becomes a “race to the bottom,” where the lowest price takes precedence over value. If you can only win on price, you will find yourself in a downward spiral every time the contract is up for rebid.
Here are five ways you can strategically differentiate your company during the sales process to win more bids.
1) Make proactive recommendations.
As a service or product supplier, customers look to you as the expert. They rely on your expertise to perform important tasks they cannot do themselves, which means it is important for you to be proactive in making recommendations. You can differentiate your company by offering creative recommendations that address emerging issues that impact the prospect’s business. If you don’t take the time to develop proactive solutions that extend beyond the basic requirements of the request for proposal (RFP), your competitors will likely beat you to it. However, if your competitors don’t think of them, you have then successfully differentiated your company.
2) Define your niche.
Has your company ever been perceived by a prospect in a different manner than you anticipated or wanted? By allowing your company to be incorrectly categorized or lumped into a category that is not accurate, your prospect will not fully understand the unique value your company provides. Instead of allowing your company to be defined for you, take a proactive approach to define and communicate the correct category or develop a smaller niche category that is different from your competitors. This can help your company stand out during the sales process and more effectively communicate your value and expertise.
3) Collect past data on sales performance.
Give yourself an edge over the competition by examining why you won or lost bids in the past, and apply this knowledge to new bids. Few companies conduct a “post-mortem” on failed sales bids or successful sales, which means by doing this you can create a strategic differentiator that separates your company from the competition. Selling at this strategic level is very often a “game of inches,” and understanding the causes for winning or losing sales will help you perform at a much higher level during future sales.
4) Sell your culture.
Company culture often tends to differentiate companies, particularly when all other things are essentially equal. Culture may encompass flexibility, customizability, internal bureaucracies, and communication styles. Often these “soft issues” become prominent points of differentiation when all bidders are highly qualified. Examine your prospect’s company culture and see how you can align your organization’s culture with your prospect’s culture. The more you show how your company culture aligns with that of your prospect’s, the greater your chances are of winning the bid.
5) Communicate benefits by audience.
There are usually multiple decision makers from a prospect company involved in the decision making process. Certain points of differentiation will matter more to specific decision makers. As you communicate your company’s point of differentiation, consider how it impacts each prospect decision maker. How does it affect the CEO? The CIO? What will the CFO consider most important? Once you have done this, then compile a sales team that can be involved at each appropriate level to most effectively communicate the right message to the right audience, but don’t allow your sales team to communicate conflicting messages. Emphasize specific benefits of the point of differentiation to match the audience but keep your overall message aligned.
Rick Reynolds is a co-founding partner and CEO of AskForensics, which assists Fortune-ranked companies in winning and retaining multi-million dollar accounts. Follow AskForensics on Twitter: @AskForensics.