Bid strategies depend on understanding what matters to the customer

After you identify what things matter to your customer, you can start exploring how they matter to the customer. Then you can choose what to focus on in your proposal. That’s when you find that you have choices, and those choices are what become your bid strategies. Below we show some of the things that matter to customers, explore how and why they matter, and discuss how you can use them to create bid strategies and competitive advantages, and articulate why the customer should select you.

Price matters

  • Does anything matter other than price? It might. A lot will depend on whether the customer has alternatives that meet their needs. The closer your offering is to a commodity, the more price will matter.
  • How does the price relate to their budget and funding?
  • Does the way it is priced matter? Price can be more than just a number. It can come in phases, be financed, include options, be fixed or variable, be discounted, have time limits, be based on assumptions, have limits, be complicated or be simple, be linked to other purchases or activity, come with guarantees, etc. It can be presented the same way your competitors do, or it can be presented differently. You can make it easy to compare apples to apples, or you can make it impossible. You have choices. And out of those choices, come strategies.
  • Will what they get matter more than what it costs to get it?
  • Is your value proposition so superior that instead of looking at it as a cost, the customer looks at it as an investment? “Investment” isn’t just a word you can stick in your proposal and make it so.
  • Does your price, the way you have presented it, or the return on investment you offer give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

What the customer is getting and/or the results of what you are proposing matter

  • Does it meet their requirements or specifications? Does it exceed them?
  • Is it critical to their operations? Can they function without it?
  • Does it offer benefits the customer does not anticipate?
  • How will selecting your offering make a difference to them?
  • How long will it take to get it?
  • Does the customer have the technical or subject matter expertise to understand what about your offering should matter to them? Have you explained it to them?
  • Will it open up new possibilities they can’t achieve on their own that make them excited about the future?
  • Will what the customer is going to get from you give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

Achieving the customer’s goals matters

  • How does what you are proposing impact what they are trying to achieve?
  • Does everyone at the customer (or at least those participating in the evaluation) share the same goals? For example, does your contact at the customer share the same goals as the decision maker?
  • Does the customer even know what their goals are? Will your offering help them figure it out?
  • Does your ability to achieve the customer’s goals give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

Risk matters

  • One customer’s innovation is another customer’s unacceptable level of risk…
  • The customer will anticipate many risks: risks that you won’t perform, that your offering won’t meet their needs, that it won’t be delivered on time, that you will cheat, that things will break, that costs will inflate, etc. What have you done to address their concerns before they have a chance to realize them?
  • Why should the customer believe that something unexpected won't prevent you from fulfilling your commitments?
  • Does your awareness of the risks and ability to mitigate them give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

Trade-offs Matter

  • The customer wants it all, including a low price. Some realize they can’t have it. But all realize there are trade-offs: fast, well built, or cheap — pick any two.
  • Have you picked the same side of each trade-off that the customer would?
  • Have you explained why you made the trade-offs the way you did, and how the customer benefits?
  • Does your approach to these trade-offs give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

Trust matters

  • People do business with companies they trust. People trust people they know. Why should the customer trust you?
  • If the customer doesn’t trust you before they get your proposal, do you have any chance of winning?
  • Making unsubstantiated claims and saying things that don’t matter to the customer hurt your credibility. Is your proposal credible?
  • What can you say or do in your proposal to make your company more trustworthy? Can you make your offering and pricing more reliable, provable, or transparent? Can they verify your claims? Can they contact your references?
  • Do trust issues give you a competitive advantage or present the customer with reasons to select you? Have you articulated them?

What the customer has to do to get the purchase approved matters

  • You may have nothing to do with this. But it will impact you nonetheless.
  • Can you anticipate their evaluation or approval process? Can you give them everything they need to process your proposal to eliminate any difficulties or hold-ups?
  • The concerns and perspectives of those reviewing, evaluating, or approving a proposal may be different than those of your contact or those who will receive your offering. Does your proposal speak to them and answer their questions as well?

Whether they have a better alternative matters

  • If your proposal is competitive, the customer is considering other offers. What would they see as a better offer? Does your proposal match up to it?
  • If your proposal is not competitive or is unsolicited, then the other alternative may be to do nothing. Does your proposal provide sufficient motivation for them to take action?

In addition to providing guidance for your business and proposal development process, PropLIBRARY also includes a Proposal Recipe library that addresses what to write about in various sections of your proposals. Our Recipe Library includes a Win Strategy Cookbook with helpful material like this that your staff can use to figure out how to articulate the win strategies and themes you need to win your proposals.



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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