There’s no denying that a set of freshly released tender documents can be a bit intimidating. No doubt, by the time you’ve read the entire Request for Tender (RFT) you’ll have plenty of questions. So, what’s the best way to go about finding some answers?
It pays to remember that the prospective client really does want to receive responses of a high standard, so they’re generally open to potential tenderers making enquiries in order to clarify what’s required. After all, nobody wants to waste their time evaluating poor or incomplete submissions.
It also pays to remember that you should never make assumptions about what the prospect wants. If you’re unclear about anything, then you risk missing the mark. And if you need to ask a question to ascertain exactly what that mark is, then ask away.
Who do you ask?
You’ll find the details of a designated contact person on each RFT. They act as a collator of all questions so they can provide considered and prompt responses which, if appropriate, they’ll distribute to all tenderers. It also means that the tender process remains transparent and fair.
Oh, and a word of warning here. Don’t ever consider getting in touch with anyone other than the nominated contact person once the tender is issued, or you risk being eliminated for soliciting. No kidding.
What can I ask?
Pretty much anything that you want, as long as it relates to the tender. You can make everyone’s life easier by making your question clear and concise and referencing the exact section or question in the RFT that’s giving you heartburn. If the answer you receive prompts another question, then don’t be afraid to ask that, too. Don’t forget that winning a tender could make an enormous difference to your business’ future, so don’t be a shrinking violet when it comes to asking for help.
If you’re aware that a tender may be about to be issued, there may be scope to ask questions of other stakeholders. Engaging early with these parties will give you a taster of who you’ll be working with and a better idea of the project overall. What’s more, you can bet your bottom dollar that not all prospective tenderers will bother making this kind of extra effort, but it might just give your response the edge by it being better informed.
Time is running out!
If your question is, ‘Please can I have more time to lodge my response?’ be prepared to get knocked back. In all but the most unusual of circumstances, your request is likely to be refused.
However! The prospect’s responses to tenderers’ questions can sometimes make a good case for an extension to be granted, particularly if their response has changed the scope or services required. So, if you’re going to ask for more time in this kind of scenario, then clearly outline the reasons why. If the prospect thinks that the majority of respondents will be in the same boat time-wise, then you may find your request will be favourably considered.