There are many myths surrounding public sector tendering and not being able to ask questions when writing a tender response is one of them.
In reality, you are allowed to ask questions, so it’s just a matter of knowing which tender questions to ask.
As the public sector is responsible for a vast spectrum of procurement, from care services to education and national security to health, tender specifications are often very general. This can mean that some omit information that suppliers consider to be important.
If you want to find out more about the tendering process and the right questions to ask procurement officials before writing a bid proposal, read on below.
Remember, You Are the Expert
Whether you are reading the questions posed within the standardised Selection Questionnaire (SQ), the tender specification itself, or any other material provided by the buyer, remember that you know your product/service better than anyone else and your experience and knowledge of the market may be more advanced than the procurer’s.
Public sector procurement officers are responsible for buying a wide and diverse range of goods, works and services, often without being specialists in any one market sector or product area. Your tender submission is the place where you can display your market knowledge and expertise. In most cases, public sector procurers will not be as knowledgeable as you or other contractors who are bidding for their contracts/tenders.
By harnessing your knowledge and experience, you can often positively influence the outcome of a procurement exercise, particularly if you have participated in early engagement before the notice is even published. Importantly, early engagement can help improve your chances of winning the contract/tender.
Early engagement between buyers and the market will be even more important when the current Procurement Bill becomes law.
Before Asking any Questions
Before asking the buying authority any questions, carefully read and consider all the information included and questions posed in the tender documentation; only then, where necessary, seek clarification on any points that confuse or restrict your ability to respond suitably.
A good specification asks questions of you, seeking to understand your solution and methodology; however, during this period, you should also be asking questions of the public sector.
The Best Questions to Ask when Tendering with the Public Sector
Try to ask questions that remove assumptions from the bid writing process; this will allow you to focus on what is required and give the buyer exactly the answers they are seeking.
PASS Principal Procurement Consultant Eddie Regan is a procurement specialist who offers bid support to businesses across the UK. He says that “questions can be on any topic relevant to the tender exercise”.
Procurers sometimes tightly define the solution they are seeking in their tender documents, using an input specification. Many questions may need to be asked to help you fully understand the potential flexibility of the requirement.
If the procurer opts for an output-based specification, asking only that the solution meets certain outcomes, it is far easier for you to use your knowledge and sector-specific experience to offer the best solution. However, it is still important to ask the right questions before you submit a response to ensure you meet the client’s needs.
Clarification Questions to Ask Before Tendering
Knowing the right questions to ask the buying authority is important because it helps you understand what they are looking for, which can help you write a tender response that addresses their needs and highlights how your business can fulfil those needs.
The bidding organisation should ask for clarification on the following:
If TUPE applies
Omissions or errors within the tender documents
Numbers that don’t add up and any other minor errors
Terms and conditions of the contract
Specific terms, quality performance, or conditions of contracts
Why is it Important to Ask Questions?
Some suppliers notice elements in the specification that are no longer pertinent to the tender and could be removed. If you are unsure about the relevance of any element, ask: you could be saving the contracting authority unnecessary costs.
An example Eddie Regan uses is:
“Why is there a requirement for an excessive amount of Professional Indemnity Insurance when, in your experience, the size and nature of the contract that you are bidding for would normally only require a lower level?”
What Happens After You Ask Buyers Questions?
Once your question has been submitted, it will be anonymised.
Remember, there are no silly questions when it comes to working with the public sector. By law, the buyer must provide an answer to your question. The answer will be circulated to all the participants to ensure there is a level playing field in terms of knowledge.
The advantage of this is that your business will gain sight of the questions your competitors are asking — this could be of benefit to you in the long term.
Learn More about Writing Bid Proposals
Would you like to learn more about the bid writing process? Tracker customers get a discount on Procurement Advice and Support Service (PASS) training as part of their membership benefits!
Depending on your package level, you can gain access to a range of exclusive benefits, all designed to help your business engage with buyers earlier, be more competitive, and sell more effectively.
PASS is Tracker’s official training partner and has created a 17 point tender checklist to ensure you understand which questions to ask and meet every requirement in the tender process, including the evaluation criteria.
To learn how to respond to public tenders properly and win more government contracts, you can also bring in a tender consultant who can help you with understanding the tender question — which will improve your win rate.
With Tracker’s procurement consultancy services, you can learn more about the right tender questions and answers to simplify the procurement process and increase your chances of winning valuable government contracts.
Sign up for a free Tracker trial today!
Coming Soon: Keep reading our “Public Sector Tendering” blog series and learn more about “Tailoring your bid response to the contract”.