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Be the Giraffelope: How to Stand Out in Your Government Proposals

It is sunrise on the Serengeti. Your expedition has been delightful up until this point. You have viewed lions, elephants, giraffes, and antelopes in addition to the vast, breathtaking endless stretches of open plain. Despite all the beauty you have witnessed and the challenge of navigating remote terrain, you feel you have missed something. You have seen what everyone else before you has seen, and you want to discover something new, something remarkable. You are government contracting officer, and you are done with lions. You want to find a giraffelope, a rare combination of unlike animals coming together to make something so unique, you want to experience it. As a company seeking government contracts, you need to be the giraffelope, and we can tell you how.

If you want to stand out amongst other companies on the wide and competitive plain of government contracting, you need to think of yourself in new terms, especially the ones you put in your bid responses. We are going to start by retiring some phrases you love to use, so much so, everyone else uses them, making you just another lion in the pride to the person viewing your response. If you use these or other like phrases, put down your tired quill and stop!:

  • Best in class
  • State-of-the-art
  • Top rated
  • Customer’s choice
  • Leading, cutting or bleeding edge
  • Modern
  • Revolutionary
  • Space age (really, don’t ever)
  • Significant experience
  • Game changing
  • Excellent results
  • Etc.

While these phrases are recognized by many people, they mean nothing when they stand alone and everyone is using them. In becoming the giraffelope, you need to define your company by what makes it different and then provide the evidence for those differences. Relying on someone to interpret this instead of spelling it out clearly just earns you a space in the paper pile of doom. (Why do so many submission still require paper by the why? This is a topic for another day.)

To stand out, you need to be clear about your company differentiators. These are evidence-supported facts unique to your company about who you are, what you do, and how you do it which nobody else (or few others) could claim. Even if you are in the commodities business, there is something in your history or present day making you stand out, otherwise you would be out of operation. The more you can include metrics in support of your differentiators, the better. And please, don’t start by saying “Our company is different because….” Here are some examples of replacing the phrases above with meaningful callouts. You could even create graphics for figures further highlighting the difference.

  •  In the last six years, Ricky’s Rockets has delivered eight new technologies to market on time and within budget. The X-Wing Rocket exceeds the speed of the next top rocket in the market by 50 milliseconds.
  • Wowza Website Design Services has exceeded customer’s expectations continually, leading to 100% re-engagement with our clients.
  • Miracle Medical’s new Once In, Once Out needles have increased medical technician’s accuracy by 99.9% over the last three years in use.
  • Our training team at You Don’t Know What You Are Doing, Inc. has over 100 years of combined experience training team members at your companies like yours, leading to a 90% increase in the job satisfaction at client companies.

We never said being a giraffelope would be easy. Perhaps your company is not measuring performance at such a fine level, or you are new to market and don’t have a long track record. You probably still have things you can approximate in the here and now and claims which can still make you stand out even if detailed metrics aren’t available. However, we would encourage you to start thinking about how you could define and measure success.
On a final note, in addition to finding what makes you stand out from other companies in order to catch a contracting officer’s eye on your government bidding adventure, you need to balance this with addressing all required elements in a proposal. Honestly, this can be boring and repetitive. This is exactly the reason you need to become the giraffelope. Being different leads to results and revenue, and it is fun being noticed.

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