Work Winning : ‘F-A-B, Captain’ or ‘F-USP-D’ ?

This blog looks at two models to make you or your organisation's bid and proposals more attractive to a Buyer and differentiate yourself from the competition.

I was at an event organised by the APM’s Contracts & Procurement SIG at the end of October titled ‘Work winning : the project manager's survival guide to bids, tenders and proposal’ It was given by the excellent David Warley who has spent most of his professional life helping companies win project based work. Despite having worked on bids as large as £2.5 bn, I learnt new stuff, so I thought it might well be worthwhile sharing a couple of things, old and new, over a number of blogs.

Let’s start with …

F-A-B, Captain ?

s-l225-(1).jpgF-A-B stands for :

  • Feature, which is an aspect of your offer : something that you will do or provide as part of a solution;
  • Advantage is a general advantage that the Feature might provide to the Benefit of a Buyer
  • Benefit is a Feature that is of Value to the Buyer.

People seem to remember the F-A-B acronym because it reminds them of Thunderbirds as in       “F A B, Captain” !

And when they use it to answer questions, I know it can massively improve the win rate : some years ago, a client of mine won their next three bids for a government agency by mainly linking the technical features of their offer to the client centred Benefits. This contrasted with just writing a technical response of Features.


F-USP-D stands for

  • Feature as before
  • Unique Selling Point as in a Feature that differs from other competitors and may provide Benefit to the Customer
  • Discriminator, which is a Feature that provides more Benefit to the Customer than the competition

So let us take an example. A Feature might be that a consultant is really excellent at designing in sustainable solutions to buildings. Using the F-A-B model, that gives them a potential Advantage when bidding for design work. However, if the Buyer is a hard nosed property developer who has no interest in sustainability, except to meet the legal minimum, having excellent sustainability credentials is of no interest or perceived Benefit to the Buyer. In these circumstances, it might be wiser for design consultancy not to bid as, in the eyes of the Buyer, they have no differentiator.

However, now let’s use the F-USP-D model. The consultancy recognises that the Buyer has no interest in sustainability as an end in itself. They recognise that what matters to the hard-nosed Buyer is cost, so they might attempt to re-frame their sustainability credentials –the Feature - as a way of reducing cost. For example, include in their submission something like “as a world leader in sustainable solutions, we can design in legally compliant environmental solutions which will cost much less that our competitors’ solutions to construct”. Suddenly the Advantage is framed as a USP – they are world leaders – which is not just of Benefit to the Buyer, but potentially puts clear water between them and the competition i.e. it ‘Discriminates’ for them and against the competition. Alternatively, you could say the D stands for ‘Differentiator’ if that makes more sense to you.

So which should you use to get that winning feeling ?

Depositphotos_69996123_s-2015.jpgWhile I had used the reframing of Features and Advantages to give a Benefit in the client’s language before, what I like about the F-USP-D model is that it takes the concept further by

(a) reframing the Benefit into a more client focussed Discriminator in the eyes of the client and

(b) clearly trying to differentiate – create a gap – between you and the competition as opposed to just being better.

So ‘F-A-B’ or ‘F-USP-D’ ? Has to be the latter. Because as a model (feature) it uniquely differentiates you (USP) to win more business than the competition (the discriminator).

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