Ghosting in Tenders: If Attacking Competitors Is Ok For Election Campaigns, Is It Ok For Tenders?

A man playing chess and considering strategy - representing the technique of 'ghosting' a competitor in tendering

Competitive comparison, or grubby tactic?

The concept of ‘ghosting’ competitor offerings in tenders is a well-known persuasion technique.

‘Ghosting’ in tenders involves subtly downplaying a competitor’s strengths and highlighting their known shortcomings, while providing as counterpoint a clear rationale for the benefits of your solution.  

Negative persuasion is proven to be extremely effective.

But, in BidWrite’s experience, most Australian organisations are reluctant to use this technique. They believe it to be a bit ‘grubby’.

Procurement professionals we talk to echo similar sentiments. In essence, they tell us that some competitive comparison in tenders is OK, but devoting lots of tender real estate to bad mouthing competitors is not appealing.

But this doesn’t change the fact that use of negative reinforcement and sowing the seeds of doubt persuades. Which is why, presumably (and despite earlier assurances to the contrary), Australian federal election campaigning is now dominated by attack ads.

So, here’s our conundrum. If it’s a known effective persuasive technique, and practiced widely in certain circumstances, why shouldn’t ghosting be used more in tenders?

Using the full toolkit available to bid professionals

Of course, there must be a limit. Defamatory language and untruths are not OK. But in ever-increasingly competitive bidding situations, inside sourcing processes that make it harder and harder to argue points of competitive difference, why would we limit ourselves to only part of the persuasive toolkit?

There is a clear case to drive ghosting in tenders harder. If it’s OK for people who want to run our country, surely, it’s good for organisations trying to win and retain business too.


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