5 Tips for Getting Suppliers to Bid


We are often asked how supply options can be improved by companies across the private, public and Not-for-Profit (NFP) sectors. We outline below a few proven steps to getting what you want from the market and maximising interest in your tender opportunities.

1. Make sure it is easy to understand what you want from them.

In my experience, the number one complaint suppliers have about tenders is that the requirement specifications are badly written and/or badly defined. In other words, they don't understand what the buyer wants.

Regardless as to the sector you are in, when you are buying from any market, a clear set of requirement specifications are critical to driving interest and demand from potential suppliers. If the requirement specifications are clear and the approach for evaluating bid responses is also easy to understand, buyers will normally stimulate a reasonable degree of competition.

Be clear with your requirements | Credit: Sluamor
Be clear with your requirements Credit: Sluamor

Some organisations make the specification and evaluation processes extremely complicated. There was a public sector water industry tender that took a full year to award. We're aware of a legal services tender than is eight months and counting at this stage. These kinds of delays have direct knock-on impacts on supplier interest in participating in tender processes.

If they want to get suppliers to bid, we recommend that buyers, whether it is in the public or private domain, invest as much time as possible in the development of a detailed specification. If they don't really know what they want, they should wait until they do know enough to write a clear specification of their requirements. One way to find out more is to talk to potential suppliers before issuing a tender, which leads us to the next tip.

2. Invite suppliers and engage them in a pre-market process.

We all want to get suppliers to bid more often. The public sector is better at this than the private sector tends to be. The private sector can be erratic in using market consultation processes.

Market consultation helps organisations to find out more about the potential options and considerations for any tender. This helps to inform specification criteria when they are eventually drafted. You are also getting an opportunity to learn more about potential suppliers, and get a sense of whether you would work well together.

Face-to-face contact is a great way to assess the degree to which there could be a meeting of minds (i.e., a cultural fit). While the public sector has to be careful about how this is addressed/assessed, the private sector has a free hand in this regard. You maximise the potential chances of getting bid responses when you engage with suppliers in a positive, proactive and engaging manner.

3. Listen and reflect what you have learned from speaking to the market.

Listen carefully and clearly to what the market is telling you when you're hoping to get more suppliers to bid. Try and make sure that the tender documents include some of the ideas the companies you have met shared with you. Ideally, use specific phrases they used where you have jotted them down. Including this kind of content builds rapport with your target audience as they will see that their views have been incorporated. Suppliers, typically, are more motivated by organisations that listen and engage than ones that run everything impersonally and at arm's length.

There is a time and a place for running tenders at arm's length, ultimately the tactics used to drive interest and competition work less well, the greater the emphasis on price outcomes.

4. Keep bureaucracy to an absolute minimum.

Make the tender documents as short as they can possibly be. On Sluamor.com we have designed the site to minimise the crushing burden of bureaucratic, rainforest burning paperwork the public sector imposes on its suppliers. There are two practical, planet friendly things that can be done:

  1. Make sure the information being sought is proportionate to the size of the tender opportunity; and
  2. Make it easy for suppliers to understand what they need to do to respond.

We tend to recommend the use of response templates that include guidance instructions to help suppliers understand what you are seeking and how they should explain their approach to meeting the buyer's needs.

Make it as easy as possible for suppliers to bid so that you can maximise competition. Consider page limits to place the emphasis on quality and keep your requests of the supplier as simple and clear as possible.

Above all, avoid imposing unnecessary rules on the tender contest. In the private sector, and often in the NFP sector, you have the pick of the field, so use the greater liberty this brings.

Make it easy for suppliers to understand what they need to do to respond | Credit: Sluamor
Make it easy for suppliers to understand what they need to do to respond Credit: Sluamor

5. Be fair and open in your dealings and feedback.

Ultimately, you want to keep your supply options open so have a think about how you provide feedback to your suppliers. If it makes sense to do so, multi-source. Single sourcing is risky as many Irish companies are finding out this year, post-Brexit.

In the private sector, you can divide contracts, and multi-source or drop a supplier with relative ease.

Whether you single source or multi source, if you are successful, you will still need to provide feedback to unsuccessful tenderers. Where this is required, provide clear, candid feedback and be open with suppliers whenever possible.

Good quality feedback helps suppliers understand what they need to do, to improve from one bid to the next. You may need them down the line, so keep an eye to the long term. You may want to get "losing" suppliers to bid for future tendering opportunities.

In closing, remember to use Sluamor when you need to find affordable, reliable suppliers. Just 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.

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