We are often asked how supply options can be improved by clients in the public and private sector. Below, we lay out some of our thoughts on how businesses can get suppliers to bid.
Get suppliers to bid – be clear in your demands
The number one complaint suppliers have about tenders is that the specification is deficient in some kind of manner. My own company is responding to a tender at present for a State body where a key part of the specification ends mid-sentence. On this occasion, it has not put us off bidding for a variety of reasons but normally this would be an automatic no-bid for us.
Whether it is the public or the private sector, specifications should be clear and the way that bid responses are going to be evaluated should be clearly explained also. Some state-owned enterprises that we help suppliers with make the specification and evaluation process extremely complicated. This has a knock-on impact on suppliers and their willingness to participate in bid processes.
We recommend that buyers, whether it is in the public or private domain, invest significant time in the development of a detailed specification. If they don’t really know what they want, they should wait until they know enough to be able to develop a clear specification. One way to find out more is to talk to potential suppliers before issuing a tender.
Get suppliers to bid – invite them and engage them in a pre-market process
We all want to get suppliers to bid more often. The public sector is good at this. The private sector is often erratic in employing market consultation techniques. Either way, there are several positive factors that arise from this. Market consultation helps organisations find out more about the potential options and considerations for any tender. This should impact upon specification criteria. You are also getting an opportunity to learn a little about potential suppliers.
Face to face contact is a great way to assess the degree to which there is a meeting of minds (a cultural fit). This is one of Ray Carter’s famous 10 C’s of supplier competence. 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.
Get suppliers to bid – listen and reflect what you have learned from speaking to the market
Listen carefully and clearly to what the market is telling you. Firstly, try and make sure when crafting the tender documents that people in the market that have engaged with you identify some of the ideas they shared with you. You can inject the documents with emotionally intelligent content that builds empathy with the audience you are seeking. Moreover, suppliers are more motivated to respond to an organisation that is listening to what they have to say and developing a specification that incorporates market insight alongside their performance requirements.
Get suppliers to bid – keep bureaucracy to an absolute minimum
Make the tender documents as short as they can possibly be. In the public sector, make sure the ask reflects the value of the actual proposition. We recently looks at a group water scheme project where the documentation ran to well in excess of 1,000 pages. Voluminous detail of this nature discourages supplier participation. This means the State loses out on potential supply options.
It is important to make it as easy as possible for suppliers to bid to maximise competition. In the private sector, consider page limits and keep it simple and clear. Above all, wvoid imposing too many rules on the tender contest unless they are essential. You have the pick of the field so enjoy and use the greater liberty this brings. It is worthwhile ensuring the criteria are clear and be explicit in how the marking process is going to work.
Get suppliers to bid – 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. In the private sector, you can divide up contracts and multi-source or drop a supplier with relative ease. The public sector has more rigid restrictions on it but feedback can be clear and candid. Good quality feedback helps suppliers understand what they need to do to improve from one bid to the next.