Vickie Sullivan in a raintoday.com posting describes how she selected the original second runner for a major landscaping project. Her assertion: There are differences that can allow you to overtake the front-runner in a serious competition.
However, before I go into her specific suggestions, it is important to realize that you don’t even get into the race if you don’t have some really fundamental things correct. In this situation, the front-runner had worked with the client previously (positive experience, worthy of repeat business), while the second got on the two-company short-list because it was recommended by the project architect. (Direct referral from trusted source).
Then where were the differences?
The second-runner had the architect’s relationship, and would collaborate closely. The previous service provider didn’t have that connection.
It seems the front-runner had some pricing elements that couldn’t be explained properly. If you need a pricing premium and you know it is out of line with what may be considered conventional, you had better have a really good explanation. Better, why set the higher price in the first place unless there is a valid business reason (and if there is one, you should be able to explain it, of course.)
Convenience (hassle factor)
If you are working in high-end markets, then you should be doing everything you can to make things simple and straightforward for the purchaser. If there are questions that need to be answered, there should be enough margin in the job for your additional research, administration and co-ordination time.
Most importantly, you should never take a “good customer” for granted. Yes, you have all the advantages of relationship, connections, solid experience and client knowledge. These elements indeed create high barriers to entry for any competitor. But any competitor who can bridge the wall could be formidable — and if you aren’t managing things in top form, you will lose what should be yours to retain.