What do they want? Asking questions during the tender writing process

Once you’ve read the Request for Tender (RFT) supplied by your prospective client, chances are you will have many questions.

Sometimes your prospective client will be open to your inquiries as this helps them to correct any omissions and / or errors in their RFTs, clarify the conditions of tendering or refine the scope of services. This was precisely the case with a large Commonwealth Government tender we assisted a client with recently.

Asking questions reduces the risk of you making too many assumptions about what the client wants. When you do this, you risk the worst case scenario of misunderstanding the client’s needs.

Larger organisations and all government bodies are also very keen on ‘complying tenders’. So, if you are unclear about any questions asked in the RFT or the tender process, ask for clarification. Otherwise, your tender may not fully comply and you could be evaluated as “a non-complying tender”. This means your tender will not be considered, even after all your hard work.

Asking questions – and ensuring that your tender responds properly to the client’s questions – ultimately ensures that your considerable investment in preparing a response is not wasted, and that yours is deemed to be a “complying tender”.

Who do I talk to?

RFTs include details of a contact person to whom you can direct your questions. The client wants to track all queries and to provide considered and prompt responses – and ‘one gateway’ is the management process that ensures that enquiries are answered. Ultimately this may ensure that the tender process is not corrupt.

It is vitally important that you contact only the nominated person so you cannot be eliminated from the process for soliciting.
Pertinent questions
If you have a question, ask it! If the client’s response prompts other questions, ask them!

All government organisations and some private and public ones will periodically circulate questions asked by prospective tenderers with answers to all registered tenderers. That way, you can see the concerns and queries of other tenderers.

The earlier the better

The earlier you ask your questions – the better! This gives you the maximum amount of time to prepare your tender. Check the RFT document – it will often provide you with a ‘cut off’ date for asking questions – after this, you are on your own. Don’t risk being left in the dark with a big question dangling – unanswered.

Think outside the square

When preparing your response to the RFT, you might want to consider asking questions about the project to stakeholders other than the client, and these may be mentioned in the RFT.

Early engagement with these stakeholders will give you a real sense of who you will be working with / against in delivering the project. Asking open questions to identified stakeholders could just give your tender the winning edge of understanding.

I need more time!

If you want to ask for an extension of time for lodging your response, don’t wait until the day before the tender is due. In all but the most unusual of circumstances, your request will be denied.

If, however, the client’s responses to tenderer’s questions change the scope or services required, ask for an extension and outline the reasons why. If the client considers that the majority of respondents do require more time, then a request for a reasonable response will often be favourably considered.

For more help with tender writing, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216.

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