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4 Key Tips for Responding to Procurement Contests outlining Evaluation Criteria

Business Growth Tenders

We’re often asked the following by suppliers of products and/or services: "Why don’t we score well when we respond to a Request for Tender procurement exercise, which uses evaluation criteria to award the contract?".

I’ve got some news for you. It's not about you, it's about the buyer. The problem with many proposals that both large and small suppliers submit, is that they appear to focus solely on showcasing their supply options and what the business does. This should not be the case. As a supplier, you should always focus on the buying organisation, and what that buyer needs and considers important for their business.

Let's reflect on why evaluation criteria are used for contests, but more specifically as part of a procurement exercise, when buyers make their selections before awarding contracts. It typically means that the buying organisation is not just looking for the lowest-priced bid. In other words, the buyer wants to select the supplier(s) that will offer them the best value. Therefore, they consider more qualitative selection criteria (e.g., the supplier's ability and willingness to support the requirements that are critical to the buying organisation, and the supplier's track record in addressing the expectations of their other customers).

So, what does this mean for suppliers competing to win public and/or private sector work? It requires a significant shift in mindset. The following are four key tips that you can follow in order to make the switch.

1. Show that you are interested.

You need to show that you are interested in the proposed business opportunity and have something to offer. Generic, boiler-plate content that is not customised will always be beaten by content that is crafted to the needs of the buying organisation, especially when the procurement exercise isn't a lowest-cost only contest. In some cases, the boiler-plate content has no relevance to the buyer and their current needs.

It should be self-evident why this is the case. However, just in case you need further clarity, here goes. Suppliers that use standard sales materials in their proposal submissions and provide very little depth of engagement are not demonstrating much enthusiasm for the business opportunity. This is an emotionally unintelligent way of doing business. Put yourself in their shoes, whether or not the buyer has laid out a set of evaluation criteria. Honestly, would you want to choose you, based on what you've included in your submission?

2. Do your research and think about their requirements.

You need to sell throughout any bid document. This means thinking about the buying organisation's commercial drivers. If you are not sure what these drivers are, research the company and their industry sector. Alternatively, submit a question and ask them to clarify their requirements. On submitting your proposal, you want to clearly demonstrate that you understand the company, their industry sector, and their specific needs as they pertain to the contract.

Selling the whole way through a bid does not mean companies should make wild unsubstantiated and unprovable claims that are entirely subjective (e.g., we are the market leader or "world class"), unless you can prove it. Instead, it means looking at what they are buying and ensuring that:

  • Any prior examples of work delivered are directly relevant to the buying organisation either in terms of the project subject matter but also, ideally, the sector.
  • Any team put forward to service the buying organisation has ideally worked in their sector providing exactly what they are looking for.
  • Any approach or method statement outlining how you will meet their requirements is explained in adequate levels of detail, so that the buyer can be assured that the contract will be delivered and managed well from start to finish. For small value contracts this could be a few pages. However, for very large and complex engagements, this can run to dozens of pages in length. What is common, regardless of length, is that the supplier must engage with, address and explain how the requirements will be addressed by their approach in full.
  • Any other key drivers for the organisation on matters like legal compliance, tax compliance, health & safety standards, and product marks are all available and verifiable.
  • You have provided responses that address all the evaluation criteria that the buyer has published.

3. Compete to win.

As tip #2 clearly implies, bidding well and competitively takes time. It also may require more than you and your organisation.

If on reviewing the buyer's requirements and their evaluation criteria, you determine that you don't have much experience relevant to the tender, don't just make a decision to either go for the job and see what happens, or opt not to submit a proposal. Instead, try to team up with one or more other companies, so that you can compete strongly and score well on the experience and personnel elements.

Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) that team up with others to win contracts will grow faster and win much more than other businesses that do not do the same. This is where a Consortium pitch on Sluamor could become a strategic growth lever for your organisation, if you're interested in growth and development. SMEs that do not consider the use of a consortium where relevant, hamper their ability to grow. Use of a consortium can amplify their strengths with their partners.

4. Answer the questions you have been asked to address.

Finally, as we clearly implied in tip #2, the questions that have been asked of suppliers by the buying party are being asked for a reason. More importantly, when you address all the concerns of the buying organisation, you improve your chances of scoring well against the relevant evaluation criterion.

For example, if the project relates to the selection of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for SMEs, a bid that doesn't provide information on where the data is going to be hosted, how the CRM system can integrate with other IT systems, and why it's a good fit for the sector in question, is not going to be competitive.

Similarly, project examples are often very poorly explained. These examples should always be presented as a three-act play. First, outline the project context and challenge. Next, indicate how you approached the project / engagement. Finally, state the project outcome and the benefits that were obtained by the relevant customer.

This method for presenting supplier company experience should be followed in CVs and reflected in your project experience and CV templates. It makes bids much more competitive and compelling when this model is followed.

Why does this even matter?

When we mark proposals received from potential suppliers, at Keystone Procurement, the non-price elements are marked using a Likert scale, typically 0-5. It is standard practice in procurement that meeting the stated requirements gets a supplier a score of 3 out of 5, or 60% of the available marks. To score higher marks, it needs to be advantageous and have attributes that confer advantage beyond simply responding to what has been asked for. Similarly, failing to address all the questions that have been asked in enough depth means proposals will be marked down below 3 out of 5, as they do not meet all the requirements, let alone exceed them.

In many cases, quality scores are awarded first and the price score is only added to the quality score after deficient proposals have been eliminated. It is quite common for proposals that score below 40% on a key element to be excluded automatically from a contest. We advise companies to operate in this way where it makes sense to do so and to avoid too much focus on price.

Good buyers focus on value rather than price, and they are not the same thing. So, whenever a set of evaluation criteria is published as part of a Request for Tenders document, please consider how you've addressed the evaluation criteria as you develop your proposal. Ensure that you've considered your response from the buyer's perspective, and have addressed how you will meet all their procurement requirements and even exceed their expectations.

Before you go, remember that you can use Sluamor if you're looking to form a Consortium as a strategic approach to winning more bids. Alternatively, send us a message via our Contact page if you'd like to discuss, or you can forge ahead and subscribe to share your requirements.

You can also search the list of business opportunities published on our website to see if they are any that suit you and your business, or subscribe using our free plan so that you can setup to receive email alerts of live business opportunities that relate to the products and/or services your company offers to your business customers.

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