Should you attend (another!) Bid Conference?

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Should you attend (another!) Bid Conference? A 4-point guidance note for Vendors

The purpose of vendor/supplier briefings (or bid conferences as they are also referred to) will typically be to ensure potential vendors/bidders have a clear understanding of the bid process and provide an opportunity for clarification of points pertaining to the requirement.

#1 Their value in helping you bid effectively

Bidding for contracts is a costly activity. Attending events is an additional cost that must be used to deliver value to your assessment of the bid opportunity. Typically, they take place at the client organisation’s premises.

Briefings and conferences are important for several reasons, but mainly because they (should) help vendors improve their competitive performance. The events are an integral part of a quality approach to procurement, one firmly based on improving clarity and closely linked with establishing effective communication throughout the process.

By attending or considering attending there are several areas that may be usefully be explored in order to arrive at a better understanding of the bid strategy including the bid/no bid decision. Areas include:

•             Deciding whether to bid.

•             Rethink your approach so that the bid has more chance of success.

•             Gaining clarity of the timescales and demands for an adequate response.

•             Building upon prior knowledge (if any).

•             Asking questions and seeking clarification where necessary.

•             Further understanding the personal and organisational ‘drivers’ of the client.

The organisation providing the vendor briefing or bid conference will follow their organisation’s specific guidelines for such events. There is no overarching template to the structure of events.

#2 The need for your planning and consideration of questions

If a vendor attending an event wants to ask a question, of course, they should. However, we would counsel that the question(s) are thoroughly planned and considered before being raised in open forum. Here you must reflect on the potential value of the answer to your question to you and your competitors.

Furthermore, listening to the briefing and subsequent questions raised by other attendees and the respective responses is key to the value of attending such events.

In addition, typically, vendors will be invited to submit written questions to the Client, by a certain date, in regard to clarification or other matters about the bid opportunity. The timescales for submitting questions and receiving answers is not prescriptive for public sector Clients. Questions, with their source anonomised and subsequent answers are circulated to all vendors for their information as an aid to fairness and transparency.

#3 Identify the benefits to accrue from your attendance (at vendor briefings and bid conferences)

There are a number of benefits that will accrue to your business. They will include:

•             meeting some or all of the decision maker(s) associated with the specific procurement. Whilst there may be insufficient time to personally discuss matters with them you will gain an understanding of their demeanour and business approach.

•             usually giving you a personalised background to the procurement, affording you an opportunity to clarify points that may not be in the bid documents or otherwise not be available.

•             having the chance to identify the other organisations likely to compete for the contract.

•             becoming aware of external advisors to the potential client organisation, such as financial, legal and procurement advisors

•             having the opportunity to raise matters that have not been included either in the bid documents or in the briefing.

You may be advised at the outset if particular topics are ‘off limits’. In deciding to asking questions, be mindful that your competitors may be alerted to a line you are taking and that that may help them subsequently.

•             The procurement process may be explained in more detail than that included in the bid documentation (or OJEU advertisement in the public sector).

•             If you listen carefully you may hear a side comment from others that you realise has not arisen in your thinking and strategy.

•             The nature of questions and subjects raised by others may be a good indication of concerns that others may have and you realise it is a strong point in your eventual bid. There is, later, the opportunity to emphasise these points in the bid.

•             You may hear political dimensions of the procurement that had not previously been known. That affords you the chance to tailor parts of your bid to deal with these points.

•             The evaluation criteria for the bid may be explained in detail which also affords the opportunity for tailoring your bid.

•             You may hear of other procurements arising in the future which gives you advance warning of likely opportunities and resource needs.

#4 Should you attend (another!) Bid Conference: Our advice

Sit right at the front, smile and nod agreeably throughout the presentation – use two ears and one mouth. In that order. Don’t ask a question in open forum unless you really need to  – or are desperate to show off ;) .

At the end of the conference, having carefully listened to all the questions and answers (hence you are sitting at the front – typically no microphones for the oft-whispered questions asked from the attendees)  be the first to shake hands (offering your business card) and congratulate the key decision-maker on how valuable the briefing was!  Then, and only then, you can ask your question(s) which will ideally illicit your competitive advantage.

Interesting? If you are open to telephone meeting, to find out how our services have helped improve bidding and tendering results please call me on 01744 20698 or  email me. 

Kind Regards


PS For a free copy of our report “11 key facets of your proposal – to a Corporate Buyer” please click here