I’ll never forget August 29, 2012. It was the day I won my first major contract to deliver a course. I’m not sure I heard the voice on the other line say, “We are going with you for the class.” I had to catch myself.
I was competing against more established competitors. There were universities and more experienced providers offering the course. I submitted a bid originally thinking I would get a chance to learn more about the bidding process and practice my proposal writing skills. Little did I know that I would win the bid just over two months after starting my self-employment journey.
I obviously have a great deal of work to do as I deliver a great experience for my customer. Even though the class does not start for another three weeks, I’m hard at work to have all of my offerings prepared and delivery platforms so the class operates with no hitches. I realized there are three key things every upstart must consider in order to take on the big guys and win.
- Create a unique difference – I had two factors separting myself from other course providers. During my corporate career, I taught college and continuing education classes on the side. I walked both sides of the business vs. academia fence, so I could apply my business experiences directly with my academic experience. Second, I demonstrated my comfort with an online educational environment. I earned my MBA through Indiana University’s online course platform, and I have worked in a variety of technology platforms. I demonstrated this expertise in my proposal through videos and demonstrations.
- Focus on value – Although I am not 100% positive of this, I am quite certain my bid was not the lowest cost bid. I focused on providing value in the form of extended office hours and a dedicated online course offering. The customer knew I would provide a great combination of live instruction and course discussion in my offering, and that value justified the price I bid.
- Be responsive and follow up – Once you win the bid, your real work begins. Being responsive and engaged with your customer is a great way to maintain business and earn referrals. I am not only responsive to my new customer, I am taking the initiative to anticipate my customer’s needs.
- Be flexible, but do not sacrifice your value – While you may need to make some compromises, do not win at all costs. Know your minimum price point and be prepared to walk away if necessary. If you give your value away just to win a bid, you will not build a sustainable business.
Winning against the big guys takes a special amount of initiative combined with some luck. However, the exhilaration of winning that bid makes it worthwhile. You can build a great business competing against the big guys!
What can you do to compete – and win – against larger competitors? Share your thoughts below!