Trolleys and copying

Last week we had some interesting conversations with a glass company which was wanting assistance with a new trolley design. The initial opportunity was to price the customers design. Most engineering businesses would have quoted the design, and in many cases, the engineer with the cheapest price would have won.
We took a different approach. Over 19 years of building trolleys for glass companies we have built up some experience, and that experience is valuable for discussions such as these. The design clearly had some advantages and addressed many of the customers needs. However there was also some shortcomings, and once discussed with the customer, they agreed. The customer was very appreciative. Through further discussions we've finalised an improved design which will better meet their needs. 
It got me thinking. What is the value of knowledge and experience? We are often told that other companies can build products like ours for less cost, but I rarely see identical products in customer sites. What I do see is products which are very similar to early versions of our products, many of which had shortcomings.
It got me thinking again. What can we do to get involved in customer discussions like this more often? It's during these discussions that we are at our best, add the most value, and save customers from potentially expensive mistakes.
And lastly, I started to wonder about our own business and how we could work better with our partners and suppliers so that we get the best out of their knowledge and experience.