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Strategies for offering solutions

How do you submit a better proposal when the customer doesn’t tell you what to bid?


Sometimes the customer tells you exactly what to bid. Other times, they tell you what the problem or need is and ask you to propose a solution. When they ask for a solution it can be hard to decide what to offer.


  • Teach them what matters. They have to figure out how to compare apples and oranges. Instead of leaving it to them to figure out, you can help them by pointing out what matters. And if in your proposal they see the company with the best understanding of what matters, that’s a definite plus.
  • The customer will first compare you against what they want. Before they consider how your proposal compares to the competition, and before they consider how well your proposal is presented, they ask whether what you are offering will meet their needs. If you are proposing a solution, the company with the best understanding of what the customer wants has a significant advantage. It is critical to resolve issues and tradeoffs like long-term vs. short-term, quality/speed/price, centralized vs. decentralized, etc., the same way the customer would. So how well do you know their preferences?
  • Risk mitigation rules. They are placing a lot of trust in you when they don’t specify what to bid. How do they know that what you are proposing will work, meet their needs, and get delivered on time and on budget? Trust is a lot more important as well. But they really need to know that you’ve thought it through, have anticipated the challenges, and are going to be able to overcome them.
  • What are they actually going to get? They’ve asked you to figure it out. Now they have to pick between proposals that are all different. So they want to look past the intangibles and focus on what they are actually going to get so they have something to compare. When they look at your proposal, how long does it take them to figure out what they are going to get?
  • It’s all about the results. They’ve asked for a solution, so where does yours get them? This is where your ability to tell your story really matters. If they pick you, where will they end up? What will that future look like? Will it get them excited? The company that understands them will tell the right story. The company that says they understand but doesn’t paint the right picture for the future really doesn’t understand them at all.
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