What are some Christian principles that drive competitive bidding, quoting, or estimating?

Your question reveals how much we need the wisdom of the Lord as we go about our work. Some Christians question the value of almost any kind of competition, besides friendly games or sports. Other believers enjoy athletic and military metaphors, framing their daily efforts as a battle.

Competition has negative and positive implications for life and business. Negatively, a competitive spirit can devolve into a “win at all costs” mindset that is clearly contrary to a Christian ethos. Positively, competition hones skills and increases creativity and quality.

For example, at a busy crossroads with many restaurants, the eateries will be of better quality, because customers have choices. A free market with good ethics will lift more people out of poverty than an economy controlled by the government.

Where We Go Wrong

One day a business leader asked me, “Pastor, how do I keep a good Christian attitude and crush my competition?” He wasn’t talking about the tennis court.

My response surprised him. “You change the entire statement from one of ‘crushing’ to one of offering the best goods and services for the best prices. Then you allow the market to do the rest. There is room in your particular industry for more than one success story.” For example, years ago technology rivals Apple and Microsoft realized that they would each get more business by cooperating on software, even as they competed on other products.

There is room in your particular industry for more than one success story.

Competitive bidding should not focus on “bait and switch” or “loss leader.” Advertising a cheap price to secure callbacks and then adding charges and fees may win a few gullible or exhausted customers, but it will ultimately lead to a bad reputation.

Five Principles

For the Christian, the glory of God and good of the customer are preeminent, with profits and shareholder satisfaction often following as the fruits of innovation and quality work. Part of integrity in sales is realizing that good margins (profits) are vital for a sustainable enterprise.

Thankfully, there is a growing movement for the “economics of mutuality” where people, planet, and profits are integrated into a cohesive vision that includes both free-market competition and the common good. Explaining the quality of your service and products, along with how you care for the local and global community, will often prompt people to pay a bit more.

Here are five principles that can also help, as we aim to underpromise and overdeliver with both hopefulness and realism.

  1. Know your industry and its products, and, if you are under authority, what margins are essential. These boundaries will guide you.
  2. Know the positioning of your company and your products. If they are not the cheapest, does the extra cost mean good quality? Good customer service? Good ethics?
  3. Follow through with excellent communication and service.
  4. Accept that you will not win every bid. But you can sleep well knowing that you operate with honesty and don’t exploit anyone in your processes.
  5. Allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you and flow through you. Kindness, patience, and gentleness will often win the day when they arise from sincere motivation (Gal. 5:22–23).

Being a man or woman of godly character is supreme here. Honesty and transparency, quality work, and refusing to exploit customers must all be part of how we conduct business.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Conscience

One Sunday morning a single mom in my church asked for prayer. After 300,000-plus miles her car had died, and she needed a new one. I prayed with her for an affordable car that would meet her needs. The next Sunday I saw her drive up to the church in a fairly new, large SUV. I congratulated her on finding a good deal. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and hastily entered the building.

Honesty and transparency, quality work, and refusing to exploit customers must all be part of how we conduct business.

Later, after the service, she asked if we could talk. She shared her story of facing high-pressure sales tactics from two young men at the dealership. The car she could afford was replaced by one she “qualified for” at an exorbitant interest rate (27 percent! But low payments!). She was tired after five hours and bought the car.

“I guess I will get another part-time job to pay for it,” she told me.

I immediately wrote to the owner of the dealership. He was a professing Christian and public philanthropist. When he found out what happened, he agreed to meet us. An hour later she was in a modest car at 7 percent interest, and two salesmen were looking for work. Integrity matters.

You can be successful without sacrificing your conscience. So build your brand without demeaning others, aim for the customers’ good, and seek God’s pleasure as you pursue fruitfulness in your work.

Editors’ note: 

TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected]