If you are frequently dealing with the same bidding challenges, such as unhelpful clients, difficult-to-reach internal subject matter experts, a ‘last-minute’ culture and/or long working hours, it can be useful to have some strategies on hand to deal with them. In Part 1 of this series, below, we have offered some solutions to the most common challenges you are likely to face from buyers as a bid professional.
Buyer behaviors often present challenges to the bidding process. We have outlined some of the most common problems, along with suggested solutions. Often the solutions involve pre-bid activity, as it is so important to be preparing well ahead of the bid release date.
Challenge: Lack of notice/short deadlines
Solution: Educate the buyer
Education of buyers is key here so that they understand how much work is required to prepare a proper bid response, to encourage them to allow a reasonable amount of time for bidders to work on their bids and to factor in holidays. As a bid professional, you should be in regular contact with your operations, sales, and business development teams working across both incumbent contracts and new contracts to ensure that all teams help to educate the buyers before bid documents are released.
Challenge: Poorly drafted invitations to tender / requests for proposals
Solution: Early engagement with documents and effective use of clarification questions
You should thoroughly dissect the bid documents very early in the bid process. Read every single document and appendix, paying close attention to the pricing documents, and ensure that representatives from relevant teams within your organisation do the same, and note every question you have about the documents. This could include discrepancies, contradictions, or anything that is unclear and will be difficult to effectively respond to. Use this list to ask polite, clear clarification questions to the buyer very early in the process as the responses could impact your decision to proceed with the bid. And remember that the earlier you get a strong understanding of the bid documents, the higher your chances of a successful result.
Challenge: Restrictive word, page, or character counts
Solution: Early clarification question
While it is useful to have some limit on your responses to ensure that all bids are compared fairly, if a buyer has given what you deem to be an unreasonable limit, make use of the clarification questions to request more space. Be specific with your request and offer a suggested word/page/character count to give the buyer an indication of the space you need to fully answer the question.
Challenge: Poor clarification responses
Solution: Even more clarification questions
Bid documents usually state when the decision will be made. If no decision has been made within 2-4 weeks of that date passing, contact the buyer highlighting the stated date and asking for an update on the timescale for decision-making.
Challenge: Lack of detailed feedback
Solution: Use your rights
In public sector bidding you have a legal right to feedback. Ask for a detailed scoring breakdown of both the quality and commercial elements of your bid, including feedback and scores for each individual question. Ask for rankings in quality and commercial so you can understand either how large your victory was or where you can improve future responses.
If you have difficulty getting feedback, find the organisation’s published procurement strategy. This will usually include some warm words about providing feedback to bidders, which you can politely highlight to them along with your request for feedback.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in our March Newsletter, highlighting the challenges you may face within your own organisation.