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Competitive is just a word

Words have tone (lax vs playful), and weight (liberated vs carefree). Their meaning can also be more or less elastic. Some words, like “three”, usually mean only one thing. Other words can have so many different meanings in different contexts that they could, for better or for worse, mean almost anything.

For example, If some offer is “competitive” what does that really mean? 

  • In the context of commoditized, fungible services, it means “my best shot at the lowest price possible”.
  • In the context of recruitment, it means “you will struggle to find an offer much higher than mine”. 
  • In most cases that I encounter, it means “price comparable to many other prices that I know about, minus some that probably don’t count, and probably a little lower than you expected”.

As long as everybody participating in the communication exchange fully understands the domain-specific context, it all works out. It might be a good idea to use “competitive ” to describe your offer in construction, industry, or maybe in recruiting sometimes.

In most situations where a specialist talks to a client, using it is a recipe for conflict, or at least broken expectations.

When presenting an offer, I found that it’s best to use the number alone, without adjectives. If your offer does inspire an adjective in the context of your client’s case, it will pop into their head as soon as they read the figure.

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