The best way to win in competition – in RFPs and in the client competitions commonly referred to as "beauty contests" or "bake-offs" – is to make sure you understand the motivation and process driving the client's selection decision. The more you know about how and why the client will select its service provider, the easier it will be to align your tactics and win.
Perhaps as much as 99 percent of what you do is perceived as similar to what your nearest competitors do. That means that the one percent perceived difference drives 100 percent of the client's choice. In competitive situations, if a prospective client does not see or value even the smallest characteristics that make you better, it threatens your ability to win, or forces you to compete on price. That is why it is so important to identify and then position what differentiates you. But you still will not have reached the finish line.
If you are able to differentiate yourself as a preferred provider, you only become a finalist in the competition. You have made it to the short list, the red zone where the competition gets intense. All of the service providers on the short list are well qualified, so your professional qualifications probably won't differentiate you as much during this final stage as it did in earlier stages of the process.
The winner of this final selection phase will be the provider that best establishes a partnership with the client. This is the third level of engagement, becoming a strategic partner by differentiating on the client – that is, finding and then aligning to what makes this prospective client unique. This means aligning with the prospective client personally and professionally, and with the client's unique situation, project, preferences and decision process.
Instead of wanting to know more about you at this point, prospective clients want to work with a strategic partner, a partner who knows more and cares more about them.