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Ghosting the Competition: Is It Worth It?

Ghosting the Competition

In bidding, you not only need to score points, but you also need a solid defence. Ghosting is a subtle way to compare yourself against your competition, emphasising your strengths and offsetting any weaknesses.

There are several schools of thought with regard to ghosting your competition. Many would argue that it is unnecessary, others would say unsportsmanlike, but there is no denying that it happens. In this article we therefore discuss why and how you need to ghost your competition, proactively and defensively.

Emphasise Your Strengths

Don’t just say why you’re good, say why you’re better

The easiest way to ghost your competitors is to emphasise strengths of your proposal that you know they don’t have. If you know that you’re the best at something, tell the buyer how and why you are.

  • Are you the cheapest on the market? Tell them.
  • If your magic broom can sweep a floor twice as fast as anyone else’s, saving them time and money, tell them.

This is one of the most subtle ways to get one over on your competition, but be careful that every point you make has evidence to back it up. You could all say that your software is the fastest, but if you’re the only one to prove it, you win that round!

Play to Your Strengths

Mitigate Your Weaknesses

As well as playing to your strengths, you must also make sure to know your weaknesses. Where can you not prove that you’re the best? In these cases you need to be a bit more sneaky. If you know there’s a feature where they beat you, think of a way to downplay the utility of it.

Example: Faster cleaners are not always thorough

Second-guess the competition. Explain how you have addressed any weakness before they get a chance to mention it.


Smaller Companies: Ghost the ‘size’ argument by stressing your responsiveness, single point-of-contact, track record and personal service.

Larger Companies: Ghost with your depth of technical resources, experience and staffing.

If all else fails, highlight the competitors’ weaknesses. Be careful here however. As we discuss later, if you go too far you may do yourself more harm than good.

Don’t Be Too Specific

While criticising others is all well and good, you must be subtle in your approach. If you are too on-the-nose, it will be very clear what you are doing and your credibility with the buyer may suffer.

Rather than directly mentioning unique aspects of your competition or their offering, subtly hint at issues they may hold instead:

  • Mention reasons why you have chosen not go about things in a certain way.
  • Explain the pitfalls of certain products while highlighting the benefits of your own.

Never mention the name of a competitor.

It’s quite clear why mentioning names in your bid is not the best idea. Quite apart from compromising your own integrity, it can also easily come back to bite you if you say something in error. We would go as far as to recommend avoiding even phrases such as ‘the market leader’ or ‘other companies’. It is all to easy for this approach to backfire.

Instead, be vague and subtle, whilst still including that little dig that might just win you the bid.

Don’t Over-Do It

Similar to the above, it is important also not to over-do your ghosting. The more you apply ghosting in your bids, the more it will become obvious what you are doing. As we have mentioned, if the buyer can tell what you’re doing, the chances are you won’t come off looking too well.

The best way for ghosting to have the maximum impact without drawing suspicion therefore is to apply it carefully, precisely and sparingly. Too much, and the key aspects you try to downplay may be lost.

Don’t Be an Arrogant Ghost

It’s important when ghosting your competitors to not be arrogant or condescending. We have discussed at length here about the importance of being genuine and not overdoing it. Being condescending in your ghosting will only make the reader dislike you. Buyers much prefer bids that are humble and sincere.

It is important therefore to approach ghosting with a considered and measured attitude. Be introspective and think very carefully about what the competition might say about you. If you are sensible in your defence and attack, you are far more likely to succeed.


In a Nutshell

Ghosting is not nearly as easy as it seems, and doing it well is even harder. It is important therefore to tread this fine line very carefully. Do it wrong and you risk losing the bid as well as your credibility, but do it right and you might just win.


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Updated on May 31, 2019

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