The win strategy drives all solution development. Your bid will comprise some big strategic solutions, for example the choice of technology for the contract or the location of the operations base, and many smaller solutions such as the sequence of mobilization activities or your approach to stakeholder engagement. Solutions must align to the win strategy – for example if your win strategy is about compliance and low risk for a defense project then you shouldn’t propose a new to market un-tested solution. Carry out an analysis of the contract requirements to make sure you understand what the buyer is asking for. In government/public-sector bidding it can be quite straightforward to see from the evaluation criteria what’s important to them. Sometimes you can really tell where the buyer’s mind is because they ask the same question a number of times in different ways. Remember, the contract requirements don’t always tell the full story. You need to understand their unstated requirements too - this is where your intel on the buyer issues comes into play by giving you broader context.
In my experience, the best solutions come from the pain points of the buyer. You must have the absolute confidence to explore their issues and then go back to your product/service lines and see how they can rise to the challenge. Most people do not bother doing this. They go to their service lines and ask “What do we have that we can sell them?” or think “We are great at this so let’s tell them all about it”. This is going to keep you at a 30% win rate. If you want to get above this, you need to step in to the buyer’s shoes.
Some buyers know exactly the solution they are after – here your job is to talk them through how you’ll deliver. Other buyers don’t have a clue, and your role is to help them understand the problem and its solution. The Formal Client Engagement chapter covers how to deal with this scenario in more detail. You cannot expect the buyer to know why your solution is better than the competitor. To overcome this, each solution should come with its own story. Use supporting analysis to show how you arrived at your proposed solution – for example the initial issue identified, the options you ruled out and why, and the benefits of this offer to the buyer. You can kill the credibility of a rival bidder if they propose a solution that you have already dismissed.
Its A Five-Step Process
We use this five-step solution development process with our clients to help them develop the best solution for their bid.
- Interrogate the formal requirements. Consider:
- What are they really asking for?
- What is the problem that needs fixing?
- How does this relate to our intel on the buyer issues?
- Hold a structured workshop to brainstorm ideas with the bid team
- Get subject matter experts involved – ensure they are focused on the buyer
- Generate solutions. Consider:
- New solutions
- Adapting existing solutions
- Does it align with the win strategy?
- Capture any assumptions so you can test these with the buyer
- Test and review your issues, products, and solutions with the buyer
- Clarify with the buyer any assumptions you’ve made
- Package up the solution and present it
- Be clear on the differences between features (attributes of your solution) and benefits (what it means for the buyer)
- Show supporting analysis - the story of how you got to the solution – use this to mitigate competitor solutions
Innovation is a powerful differentiation strategy in bidding. It could be a big or small innovation in pricing, technology or process. You have to target innovation very clearly. Many buyers will use the word “innovation” because somebody has told them that they need to be more innovative. You will see it all over their tender documentation, and you will say “we have some great innovation we can give these guys”. But, innovation in some organizations would not even warrant a mention in others. It is your job to unpack what they mean by innovation and their risk appetite. You can use up an awful lot of valuable bid time coming up with something innovative that is peripheral or, worse than that, is problematic to the buyer. To create the right innovation, you have to focus on the problem that needs to be solved. Do not get distracted with what your potential product offerings are.
If your win strategy is good value, cheap price, then your innovations are about cost reduction while maintaining service levels. If your win strategy is about speed of execution, fast mobilization, then your innovation efforts need to be in technologies, processes, and methodologies that support this. What we have found is most innovations that resonate with the buyer have been very simple process-driven, invented for the bid – innovations where we adapt our offer to the buyer requirement. It is as simple as that. For example, on a metro rail project, the buyer’s new project approvals process was so complex that we reorganized it for them. Our bid showed them an optimized process that met all their regulatory requirements, cut down the time spent by 40% and importantly saved them money. Although it wasn’t an exciting innovation for us, it was significant to the buyer.
- The win strategy drives all solution development – the solution must align to the strategy.
- Carry out an analysis of the requirements to make sure you understand what the buyer is asking for.
- Tap into your intel on buyer issues to understand their unstated requirements.
- Provide solutions the buyer wants, and not solutions based on what you have and can sell them.
- Follow our five-stage process ‘identify – invent – align – test – package’ to develop your solutions.