Nine ways to slice and dice competitors

Competition is a reality of business life. As long as there are contracts to be won, deals to be done, and money to be made, you can bet that there will be others apart from you who will be interested. Pitching for business is always a stressful exercise. Much of the stress actually comes from the fact that we are being judged against others and might be found wanting, rather than from the more obvious pressures of meeting the deadlines and the customer's requirements.

It's not always possible to know exactly how many competitors you are up against, or the strength of that competition, but one thing you can be certain of is that you won't be the only supplier in contention for the job.  When you already have the business and want to retain it, this thought can be terrifying.

So while it’s tempting to pull the covers over your head and hope they'll go away, these particular bogeymen could stand in the way of a lucrative contract. Let's shine a flashlight in those dark corners to see what might be lurking there.

When I work on bids with my clients, I’ve noticed that almost all of them think of their competitors as the firms or organisations that are the closest match to themselves – what I call “peer competitors”. Often there is a tendency to underestimate the field of competition as a result. So here are nine other ways to slice and dice potential competitors that might pose a threat to your ability to win:

  1. National firms, if you are local
  2. Local firms, if you are national
  3. Much larger or much smaller firms
  4. Firms that already work with your customers in another capacity
  5. Firms with expertise in an area of current or future interest to the buyer
  6. Firms with expansion plans that include your market space
  7. Potential partnerships among competitors, including joint ventures and consortia
  8. Offshore and multinational competitors, and
  9. The buyer themselves – they might do nothing, spend their money on other priorities, or decide to do it themselves.