New Year Useful Advice for Procurement Professionals on Tendering and Bidding

In our recent post Procurement Success in 2018 – Some Simple (But Important) Reminders - we made suggestions for, what we believe to be, some of the most important considerations for procurement professionals when thinking about their goals and resolutions for the coming year. In that spirit, we are pleased to add some excellent pieces of advice contributed by one of our readers. Chris Stokes of Naritas Consulting offers these relevant, highly effective, but often overlooked tips when tendering or bidding:

  1. Remember that suppliers don’t have unlimited capacity to bid for work, they will pick and choose what they go for. So if it is clear what you are trying to procure and what they need to do to submit, and you give them a sensible time to prepare their pitches, there is more chance that they will submit a tender to you.
  2. Stick to deadlines, or if things change, keep bidders informed as soon as you know. If you really don’t know when things will happen, don’t just make up an unrealistic timetable. If anything, be pessimistic on timescales, and remember that it almost always takes longer to evaluate tenders than you expect.
  3. Get someone independent of the procurement team to read through your tender document with the eyes of a supplier. Ideally someone outside your organisation – some independent procurement professionals offer this as a service. They will often pick up inconsistencies or ambiguities which you can fix before you get 10 suppliers asking you to clarify (and it makes you look more professional).
  4. Make it easier to evaluate tenders by breaking up questions into manageable sections. Don’t just have a 20 page specification and a single question of “Describe how you will meet the specification” with 10 pages for the response.
  5. Excel is great for figures, but useless for large chunks of text answers. Think very carefully before you ask bidders to submit large text answers in small Excel cells. Filling in text boxes on a portal is just about OK, but it is far easier to read a decent Word or PDF document than a text-only answer with no formatting.
  6. If you are setting page/word/character counts, think about what is sensible for the level of detail you want suppliers to complete rather than an arbitrary number of pages for each question or a number of characters set by what the portal allows as standard. If you ask for a maximum of six pages, the expectation amongst bidders is that they should do no less than five and a half even if some of that is irrelevant padding! Also setting counts for individual questions is usually better than an overall page count for the whole document, as it focuses the minds of suppliers on what is important to you rather than where they can waffle the best.
  7. When you get clarification questions, think about the answers in the light of what you asked for and the clarifications already issued. Sometimes bidders will ask clarification questions not because they are confused but because they want to change your requirements to something that suits them better. Be especially wary when bidders ask you “please can you confirm that what you (really) meant was XYZ” – often it is not but XYZ is what they are selling.
  8. If you are in the public sector, make sure you understand the difference between public sector and private sector procurement. There are lots of things that are entirely sensible in the private sector (eg taking account of the track record of suppliers when awarding a contract) that are prohibited in the public sector.



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