There’s usually a sigh of relief when law firms and accountants submit the tender document and deliver the presentation. But the work’s still not over!
The invitation to tender documentation usually indicates the timescale involved in the awarding of the contract and the contract start date. However, in my experience, the deadline can often slip. It happens. Be patient, and avoid pestering the client after the expected award date. This will not help your firm. Remember the client will often be adhering to their internal procurement processes which require them to notify the participants in writing immediately after the decision has been made. Don’t worry, it’s not usually the case that you won’t be informed.Need assistance with any aspect of bid or tender management? Contact Us!
Usually suppliers will receive notification of the contract award by letter. Following notification, it is possible to obtain evaluation feedback from the client. You can request this in written form, or via a face-to-face meeting or telephone call.
Depending on the complexity of the tender and number of applicants, the evaluation process can take time. Most decent-sized organisations have very systematic and thorough evaluation processes. This is to ensure the best legal or accountancy supplier is selected and that the unsuccessful applicants have a clear understanding of why they were unsuccessful.
Whether you have been successful or unsuccessful, obtaining constructive feedback from the client is an important opportunity to get information about how you can improve your performance in the future. If practical, and agreed to by the client, it’s best to meet face-to-face as this gives more of an opportunity for you to ask questions and to potentially build a relationship for the future.
The post-evaluation information provided by the client will usually take the form of a table, detailing under each criterion your score and the maximum score awarded. Comments are also provided against each criterion providing you with useful points for improvement.
Finally, your overall score will be provided, the score of the supplier that has been awarded the contract, and the overall position you were placed in the final scoring.
Sample debrief questions
Win or lose a proposal, you should debrief the key decision-makers to get their impressions of your firm’s performance before and during the tender process. Aim to debrief on proposals within a fortnight of the final decision. Below is a sample debrief questionnaire I’ve developed over the years:
The tender process
- What were the reasons for going out to tender?
- What was the decision-making process?
- What was the selection criteria?
- Who was involved in making the decision?
- Which firms were we competing against, and why?
Managing the process strategically
- What was your perception of [your firm] at the outset of the process?
- Did this change?
- What impressions did you gain of [your firm], and how did we compare with other firms?
Did our team…
- Respond quickly?
- Field an appropriate team in terms of skills, experience and chemistry?
- Meet with key decision‐makers and influencers?
- Appear well‐prepared?
- Demonstrate an understanding of your business and its environment?
- Did this demonstrate that we had listened to you and responded to your business situation?
- Did it clearly articulate the value we would deliver?
- Did our proposed solution meet your needs?
- Was the proposal easy to read, understand and follow?
- How did our written submission compare with other firms’?
- Were the costs at your expected level?
- How did our fee compare with other firms?
- To what extent did each firm’s performance in the presentation either reinforce or contradict earlier impressions?
- More specifically, can you give feedback on the individuals from [your firm] who presented?
- Which factors were most important in your assessment of the presentations?
- Which factors governed your final selection?
- What were the fees?
- What could [your firm] have done to improve its performance?
While you await the outcome of a tender submission, conduct an internal debrief meeting. These meetings are easy to ignore, as you are so often relieved just to have finished the proposal and/or presentation. It’s my view that it’s important to be continuously improving the quality of your bids and processes to make the tendering process easier in the future. I think it’s best to have a debrief meeting before the contract is awarded as it will be uninfluenced by the outcome.
Ideally, debriefs should be conducted by someone who is independent of the team that tendered, but ideally has an understanding of how the tender process was conducted. This could be a member of the marketing team, a business development manager or a partner. This will depend on the level of the client and the fees involved. Personally, on occasion, on contracts worth a few 100k, I’ve got the Managing Partner to do the debrief.
You should interview key decision-makers at the client organisation, for example the CEO, Managing Director, Finance Director, Audit Committee Chairman, Head of Legal. Preferably, you should see more than one person to get a more balanced range of views.
Don’t shy away from a debrief. You have invested time, energy and money. And besides, it’s not totally one-sided. The feedback process can also help the client, as it allows you to bring to their attention any problems or unclear areas that may have arisen during the procurement process which they can feed back into their processes.
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