There are a number of things that it pays to do when you are contemplating submitting a tender. Many of these will strike you as being common sense, but believe me, it is surprising how many people do not complete these steps, meaning that they fail to comply with the requirements of the tender. Make sure you don’t fall into that category!
1. Understand the tender response mechanism.
In most cases nowadays, the need to prepare multiple copies of your tender documentation have disappeared, many purchasing authorities now use electronic systems. However, there are a lot of differing systems out there, each one having different requirements. If you are responding to a tender, and you have to submit using an electronic portal, take time at the outset of the procurement process to familiarise yourself with how that electronic platform works. If you are unsure, request help via the technical helpline. Whatever you do, don’t leave it until the last minute to try to upload a document, or to read the responses to clarification questions. Try it out. In plenty of time.
If you are required to attach and upload documents, is there a maximum file size that can be uploaded? Best to find this out sooner, rather than later.
2. Read the tender documentation
Then, read it again. And again. Do you understand the brief? Are you sure? If you are in any doubt, ask for clarification. In one tender response I worked on recently, there were forty pages (yes, you did read that right!) of clarification questions and answers. Do not assume anything if you are unsure. Far better to ask for clarification, and receive a definitive answer, rather than guess and get it wrong.
3. Follow the instructions
Yes, another one where I’m sure you’ll say, “I always do that”. Everyone does. Except they don’t. If the tender documentation states that you must not include marketing materials, please don’t attach your sales brochure – as an evaluator, we won’t read it as we won’t have time. If the specified font is Arial, 11 point size, don’t respond in Times New Roman, 14 point. And always check what format the response should be in. If there is a requirement for Word 2003, make sure you save all your documents in that format, it could be that the organisation concerned cannot read Word 2010 format responses. I know it sounds easy, and I’m sure you probably do comply, but I have evaluated numerous procurement processes for organisations where respondents’ submissions have been rejected because they do not meet the requirements.
4. Always submit on time
If the deadline for submission is 1.00pm on Friday, please ensure that you have responded before that time. On an electronic response, factor in the possibility that the e-sourcing portal may be a little slower than usual if several bidders are trying to respond to the tender at the same time. Please do not submit at 3.00pm that afternoon, and assume it will be OK. It won’t. I have rejected submissions that have been 5 minutes beyond the deadline. Is that harsh? Am I mean? Quite probably, but think of it this way. If I ask you to achieve a deadline, and you can’t achieve that deadline when you are bidding for the work, how can I have confidence that you will meet any deadlines at all if I actually award you the work? Deadlines for tenders are also set for a reason. If it is 1.00pm on Friday, that means that the organisation seeking bids has the opportunity on the Friday to collate all the responses, issue them to the evaluators before the weekend and commence the evaluation process. So, a late submission will not be welcome.
In one procurement project I managed, a respondent could not understand why I would not accept their Pre-Qualification Questionnaire some two weeks after the deadline. The fact they used Royal Mail to post it to me when I had requested electronic submissions also seemed to be irrelevant to them. So, it does happen, just please don’t let it happen to you!
Always ask for feedback, whatever the outcome of the bid document you have submitted. If you are successful, you need to understand what it was about your bid that made it successful, so that you can use that knowledge for future bidding activity. If you were unsuccessful, then you need to find out why and address those issues for any future bids you submit. It is probable that you will only receive detailed feedback if you request it. That is because if I am managing a procurement project for someone, I may receive eighty responses to the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and I just won’t have time to provide detailed feedback to every single one of those. But if you ask me, I will. Surprisingly, the majority of companies never request feedback, and many of those companies will never win a tender, because they don’t understand what is holding them back.
Hopefully these tips may be useful for you in your business. Please feel free to share them with anyone who you think may benefit from reading them!