Whether your submission was successful or not, requesting feedback from the buyer/authority is essential. In this blog, we explain why requesting it is important, how to undertake a post-submission review and how to apply the lessons learned to future bids.
Why requesting feedback is important
A quick search on Google brings up pages of inspirational quotes about feedback and criticism:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard
While they might sound glib and rote, feedback for tender submissions is valuable and should be sought, particularly in a competitive industry where one dropped point can cost you a multi-million-pound contract.
Authorities will often return comprehensive feedback when they share the results of a tender, providing a score and written feedback for each quality question. This can then be used in post-submission reviews and applied to future bids. However, there are times when authorities will simply alert you of the result, win or lose, without any detailed feedback, whether this is a breakdown of the pricing and quality score in comparison to the winning bid or just notice that another company won. In these situations, it is vital that you request feedback from the contracting authority; for example, where an opportunity has been publicised on Contracts Finder in line with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, feedback must be given to the unsuccessful bidder within 15 days of written request being received.
Finding the reasons that a bid succeeded or failed is the only way you can improve and respond effectively in the future. Feedback will offer an opportunity for you to understand your strengths and weaknesses as understood by the authority and offer insight into the evaluator’s perspective, helping you identify what buyers are looking for, which can then inform your future approach to bids and tendering.
How to undertake a post-submission review of your tender submission
We understand that feedback can sting and feel unjust, but it’s a real opportunity to improve. Post-submission reviews will help you to better understand the tendering process, the wider sector and even your own business, ultimately leading to stronger and more compelling tender submissions in the future.
Take the time to go through the detailed feedback, analysing the comments and noting any particular points you can improve on next time:
- Note who won the contract. Knowledge of your direct competitors can inform long-term strategic plans and help you build on your strengths.
- What was your score in contrast to the winning score? While obvious, this will indicate how competitive your submission was and identify the areas you need to work on.
- Pay attention to the strengths of your bid. It’s important not to focus primarily on the criticism but also note what about your company and submission positively stood out to the evaluator.
- Assess the feedback for each question against your response and the specification: can you see what they mean? Are there clear places for more detail and clarity? While you might know you have the processes and resources in place, have you conveyed that to the reader? Could you include more evidence to strengthen your point?
If you continue to do this for all tender feedback received, you’ll soon be able to see a pattern of strengths and weaknesses, indicating what you need to improve the most. For example, if your social value responses consistently score lower than competitors, this is something that you should address by revisiting your social value strategy and commitments. Similarly, if buyers query your managerial structure, you might look to adapt your long-term plans or include more clarity on day-to-day responsibilities, supported by evidence of previous success.
Applying lessons learnt to future tender submissions
Once you’ve received and read the tender feedback from the contracting authority, you can then get to work incorporating their comments, emphasising your strengths and addressing any perceived weaknesses. Now is the chance to improve: whether you won or lost, you shouldn’t stand still.
Firstly, you should be clear about what feedback you want to address and improve specifically. For example, the evaluator may note that a section was vague in detail or too general, or they might query whether training on specific software is available – these are things worth knowing and are easy to apply for future bids. If there’s something related to the size and structure of the company that cannot be changed or addressed quickly, instead you can provide more tangible evidence on how you have and would deliver services.
Secondly, you should demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement by providing details and supporting evidence. The what is important but it’s the how that’ll score points. This can be as simple as providing images showing your contract management systems or diagrams setting out reporting measures.
Finally, remember each bid and authority are different. The specifications and requirements will change but knowing your strengths as well as your weaknesses by undertaking post-submission reviews of each bid will help you improve, continuously and consistently.
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