Prevent proposal pillaging

Friday, June 1, 2007

In the past month we have had an unusually large number of security integrators contact us with the same problem: my competitors know my pricing and my proposals are being thieved! How can you stop your competitors from finding out how you're pricing out materials? It's not impossible.
While you are not exactly selling the latest music playing widgets or vacation packages, the information you put on your proposal could determine whether or not you win the job.
For those of you who create quotes that have some descriptive items and then others with vendor's/manufacturer's part numbers, you are in danger of having your quotes priced out by your competitors. The vendor's/manufacturer's part number can be easily used to shop around the materials for your work.
Today's consumer has a world of information at their fingertips. Even if they are not comparing you to another vendor, they can easily obtain pricing information for parts from the Internet.
So, how can you stop your proposals from being stolen and shopped?

Without detailed line item pricing, this problem would not exist to begin with. This is the most common method of doing proposals and bidding out jobs, as you want to let your customer know you have provided them with a total turn-key solution. The more information you provide, the more information will be questioned. In this case, less is more. The option does exist within certain industry-specific accounting and business management software products to help you manage non-line item proposals.
Have an internal system of labeling items you sell. This can be achieved through implementing a customization on software programs. The method would allow you to have such a system that actual manufacturer's numbers get encrypted when they print out on proposals, but, when your team looks at it, they will know exactly what they are looking at.
Probably the easiest option--just don't print item and manufacturer's numbers on your proposals. Again, this is something that has materialized through certain industry-specific software programs. But having this option is worth the end results you receive out of it: winning more jobs.

Veeral P. Lakhani is vice president of You can contact him at