Smart clients are taking steps to ensure they attract a sufficient number of quality bids. Conversely, if clients adopt a “We’re the client; we set the rules; and bidders will just have to conform to what we want” they risk alienating bidders. When this happens, usually a lower number of bids are received – or even no bids at all. The consequences can include: a difficult relationship with the contractor / supplier from the outset; a higher than needed price having to be paid; or even the additional costs of re-running the procurement process.
So, what steps can smart clients take to attract quality bids? The 7 steps listed below should be front and centre for commissioners and procurement teams:
- Use Soft Market Testing and Prior Information Notices – Before setting out your requirements in a formal tender, use these processes for engaging with the market to find out what’s out there; what’s new; and the art of the possible. Early market engagement has the added benefit of getting your needs on the radar of potential suppliers – with many competing opportunities, the clients that have alerted the market will usually elicit a greater number of quality responses.
- Consider the Price / Quality Split and What You Want to Achieve – Decide what is most important to you: if it is Quality, then your evaluation criteria will need to reflect this. For example, if you tender out an opportunity at 80% Price/20% Quality and then load this with penalties and service credits for missing KPIs, then don’t be surprised if many providers don’t want to play ball. You have stacked the odds against them. A more sensible Price/Quality ratio will give suppliers assurance that you are serious about working in partnership to achieve quality outcomes.
- Feasible Timescales and Deadlines – Does your bid process timetable provide sufficient time for suppliers to undertake due diligence of both the opportunities and the risks; work up thorough and innovative solutions to your needs; obtain pricing from third party suppliers and produce quality bids? Regarding deadlines – are you issuing bids just before seasonal and public holiday periods? You need to put yourself in the bidders’ shoes or once again risk receiving a lower number of bids. Many bidders would prefer to No Bid even a good opportunity where the timescales and deadlines are not conducive to submitting a quality bid.
- Provide Realistic Submission Limits – Generally bidders welcome word / page limits – providing they allow sufficient space to answer the questions asked. One example of a 750 word question that had to be answered in 500 words illustrates this point! Also, portals that force bidders into restrictive limits (e.g. 1,000 characters for a detailed technical response) risk appointing without a sufficient examination of bidder solutions.
- Provide as Much Relevant Information as Possible – Bidders will often No Bid rather than bid with imperfect or incomplete information. If you have site plans, feasibility studies, TUPE information, etc, then include this with your bid pack. Whilst you could take the view that TUPE is a matter for the incumbent provider, your contracts can include provision for TUPE information to be shared with you in the final year of contract to allow you to make relevant information available to bidders.
- Respond Promptly to Clarification Questions – Bidders could be making their Bid / No Bid decisions based on your responses to their requests for clarification. Tardy or opaque responses may suggest that you will be a difficult client to deal with – hardly a good basis for a long-term relationship on a multi-million contract.
- Look at Your Treatment of Risk – Are you looking to offload all the contract risks on the supplier? If so, you may achieve this at the cost of a lower number of bids and higher prices. Also, if some suppliers are prepared to sign up to all of the risks, then they may take shortcuts and thus compromise the quality of services you are trying to achieve.
In summary, how bidder friendly is your bid process? Smart clients realise that maintaining engaged suppliers will create the right conditions for a spirit of partnership working to flourish for the duration of the contract – and beyond to future tender processes!