Bid Strategy and Solution Development
A win strategy is the value proposition that you have come up with targeted directly at how you overcome the buyer issues. This is something that you commit to massively. You do not flirt with a win strategy. You wear it everywhere. It is an absolute commitment. The win strategy is your answer to “Why Us?”. It is made up of your big sell and win themes.
Developing your win strategy
The most effective way of developing a win strategy is to workshop it as a group. You cannot just meet around somebody’s desk. Allocate at least two hours if you are in different locations and are video-conferencing in. If you have the luxury of all being together, calendar a four-hour session, with a facilitator.
First, you need to define and agree the buyer issues – this really starts to sing when you do this as a bid team, and this is where the team really starts to gel. Review the intel reports, we believe in documenting intel and producing thorough reports. Then analyze the buyer’s requirements. Asking good quality questions here is where we really start to bring the analysis out, and this is what drives the win strategy. What point are they trying to get at? What are they really looking for? Why are they doing that? Through careful deliberation involving constructive challenge and debate, you will reach broad consensus on what the buyer issues are. You should have between three and five buyer issues – the absolutely most important things they care about.
Then comes the exciting bit – what do we do about it? You will generate many ideas and solutions that hit the buyer issues. But you are looking for the one overarching big sell that answers the only important question there is ‘Why Us?’ The other, smaller nuggets are your supporting win themes, such as fast mobilization or competitive price. They tell the story of your bid and help you stand out from the competition. Most people think that the win themes are the big sell. They are definitely attention grabbers, but only the big sell will close the deal. At best, you do not want more than seven or eight win themes, and capture these in a win themes matrix, which we have handily supplied.
Example of win strategy development for a defense project
|Buyer seeking fastidious approach, highly governed, and hugely compliant in running their operations
If you do not massively respect their need for compliance then you are just adding to the pain point of this buyer
|Focused completely on compliance – ‘Power on the ground’ bringing power, rigor and a huge level of respect for process and compliance
|Delivering 100% right first time
Zero impact on existing operations
Note: We actually created 32 processes and procedures that proved we could ensure 100% compliance
Example of win strategy development for an online hotel booking platform
|The intel revealed how badly the platform was performing and the terrible customer ratings and feedback they were collating as a result
They were miles behind the competition and the issues all stemmed from terrible customer service
The client was in denial about their reality. They thought their issue was their inability to handle the volume not their inability to make their customers happy
|Improving their volume handling issues
Improving customer experience
|We do Happy! Our reason for being in business is to make your customers happy
|What Good Customer services look like: first call resolution, speed of response times, multiple platform skills, 24/7 service, informed and well-trained personnel. Customer satisfaction KPIs
Good customer service as a resolution to their perceived volume issues. We evidenced our claims with statistics and data from other transformational cases with previous clients that had been in a similar situation
Once you have your win strategy, everyone in your team must live and breathe it. It must be at the front and center of their minds, so that when they are developing solutions, meeting buyers or writing responses they are consistently pushing this strategy through. Don’t let a communication fail upend your strategy.
You have to test the strategy with the buyer. There should be touchpoints throughout the bid process, where you get to meet with the buyer to develop the solutions. You want to get a feel for what the buyer thinks by seeing how they react. If they are lukewarm, you may need to refine your strategy. If it’s still not working, then you need to get back to base and check if your intel is right or if your buyer issues are off. Don’t be afraid of iterating until you get the reaction you want – delight!
Review the win strategy at every major bid milestone. Sometimes, a key decision-maker will leave or a major event happens in your industry that could impact on your strategy, and you need to be able to react.
Commit To It
You spent so much energy and effort on creating the strategy, don’t forget about it. You need to keep banging on that drum. It’s the thread that runs through your bid. Too often you can lose sight of the strategy as you migrate through the bid.
In the bid responses, in the branding, in your interactions with the buyer, at the interviews, and presentations – sell it!
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.
- Create it – hold a win strategy session with the bid team to define buyer issues, big sell and win themes.
- Communicate it – make sure all the team knows the bid strategy.
- Test it – with the buyer to make sure it aligns to their requirements and expectations.
- Review it – keep checking you’re still on the right track.
- Commit to it – don’t lose the strategy along the way. Too often you can lose sight of the strategy as you migrate through the bid.
- Sell it!