How to...

Improve your bid process

The often cumbersome and lengthy bid process can be simplified and streamlined, with careful planning and clear objectives, as set out in our ten steps below

Improve your bid process

The bid process is often criticised for being over complicated, costly and time consuming. However, you don’t often hear about the times when the customer gets it right – and it does happen! Over recent times, we’ve seen a sea change in the way organisations are conducting their bid process, with some involving the supply chain months in advance in an effort to streamline the process. Here are ten steps to help improve your bid process, making it easier and more efficient for all parties

STEP 1: Assign one person to manage the process from start to finish to keep the project on track. If the person responsible changes part way through it can lead to confusion and duplication of work. This is especially important if using a third party consultant.

STEP 2: Research the market in advance of issuing the tender. Don’t assume that what you have already is what you’ll want in 12 months’ time. Meet with suppliers, try their systems, find out what developments they have in the pipeline and use that information to define your specification.

STEP 3: Keep request for proposals (RFPs) short and simple and only ask questions that will help you decide which supplier(s) to appoint. There are lots of RFP templates available (try the ITM, for example) but if you use one don’t just copy it word for word – cherry pick the questions relevant to your organisation and add any that aren’t already there.

STEP 4: Include your mandatory requirements within your RFP so that the responses you receive are from suppliers who stand a real chance of winning the business. Giving suppliers the information they need to qualify the opportunity and make an informed bid/no bid decision saves all parties a lot of time and money. Ultimately, you may have fewer responses to evaluate but every response should be a genuine contender.

STEP 5: Invite incumbents, strong contenders and a few wild cards. Some procurement departments only send their RFPs to suppliers they’ve worked with previously or the biggest players in the industry. By doing so you may miss the opportunity to find innovators.

STEP 6: Enlighten the bidders with as much information as possible: what you currently do, your objectives, your travel profile and transactional break down. The more information you provide, the more accurate their bids will be.

STEP 7: Give clear instructions on how you want bidders to respond. If all suppliers respond in the same format it will make it easier for you to evaluate and quickly draw fair comparisons.

STEP 8: Hold a bidders conference before the tender is due. Yes, it takes time, but it is a great opportunity to bring your requirements to life and address any areas that require further clarification. Use this platform to make sure suppliers really get where you’re coming from and understand what you want the successful supplier to deliver. The cost of holding a teleconference is minimal but it allows suppliers to ask you questions anonymously and means they all hear the same answers at the same time.

STEP 9: Allow plenty of time for suppliers to respond. Suppliers are often working on multiple bids at any one time and therefore have to prioritise and distribute workload to meet deadlines. Try to give suppliers three to four weeks to respond to your RFP, making sure you extend the deadline to accommodate any crucial or game-changing clarifications. If you give suppliers ample time to respond you’re more likely to receive quality, well thought out responses.

STEP 10: It’s good practice to debrief both successful and unsuccessful suppliers so they know what they did well and the areas in which they need to improve on for future bids.