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Article Details

Published Date: 15-12-2022
Author: Kate Hull
Category: Tender Writing & Bid Management
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At first glance, ‘tender rejection’ and ‘failing to win a tender’ may seem to mean the same thing, with both fundamentally meaning the bid has been lost. However, from a tendering perspective, they are very different, with one relating to non-compliance, and the other meaning the submission was unsuccessful as it didn’t represent the most competitive offer. Whilst the two are linked, we explain further the reasons behind each, and how, by understanding the common causes, simple mistakes can be avoided.

Why are tender submissions rejected?

The rejection of a tender by the buying authority typically means that the tender has not been evaluated, or the evaluation has been halted partway through the process due to non-compliance, or not meeting the minimum requirements stipulated by the buyer. This essentially means that the work put into completing the tender (which can be days, weeks or even months) is redundant, and, due to human error, the tender will not be scored. This means the bidder is unable to win the contract, and there will be no feedback provided on the submission to inform future submissions. Reasons why a tender may be rejected without being assessed include:

  • Failure to complete and return all mandatory attachments and documents such as pricing schedules, certificates and accounts.
  • Not completing documents correctly, such as missing out sections of the selection questionnaire or not responding to every question.
  • Not meeting mandatory requirements. For example, where the buyer has stipulated a minimum turnover and accounts do not reflect this, the submission can be rejected.
  • Trying to submit a bid after the deadline. Due to stringent procurement rules, this is prohibited.
  • Not following instructions set out by the buyer. For example, where they have instructed on page/word limits or font and formatting requirements.

The rejection of a tender can be extremely frustrating, especially when the bidder felt they were in a strong position to win the tender, and, in hindsight, a large number of reasons behind rejections can be mitigated by simply reading the tender documents fully, taking note of instructions, creating a document checklist, and having a second person (not involved in the bid) look over the submission to check everything has been completed.

Alternatively, when deciding whether to bid, bidders should complete a strategic analysis of the opportunity to ensure they meet minimum requirements. If they do not, they may choose not to bid, as their submission would likely fail without being assessed – unless clarifications explicitly state that the minimum requirements in the tender documents have been changed. If in doubt, we would recommend raising a clarification question via the portal. If you would like support writing your tender document, we offer tender writing services to help.


Why do bids fail?

Companies bidding for contracts will inevitably encounter failure at some point but is important to understand the reasons a submission was unsuccessful to inform ongoing improvements to the tendering process. Common reasons include:

  1. Not following the specification – the specification should act as a guide to completing the tender responses, with their requirements reflected (or exceeded) throughout the submission to evidence understanding and capability to deliver the service. To do this effectively, the bidder should make notes and pay attention to specific requirements. For example, if the buyer has referenced specific training needs, the bidder should make sure these are cross referenced in any responses and that the information provided by the bidder does not conflict with the buyer’s requirements.
  2. Not answering the question – many tenders and PQQs we review have limited information that does not answer the question, or only answers part of the question. Each response should be mapped against the points of the question, with the content then covering the what and the how in detail.
  3. Not providing enough evidence – marks can easily be lost by not substantiating points in a response, or failing to provide evidence where requested. For example, when explaining how the bidder will mobilise a contract, it is important to evidence experience of doing this previously. Similarly, where a tender question asks specifically for evidence or a case study this is not ‘optional’ and should be covered in sufficient detail.
  4. Limited past experience – In general, past experience is the source of a bidder’s supporting evidence and can often help to add legitimacy to commitments made in a tender response. For example, where a bidder claims that they can exceed a programme schedule, evidence of where they have done this previously, and how it was achieved, can underpin the claim and satisfy the buyer that the approach has been well thought out. Many tenders require a certain number of years’ experience within a field in order to be compliant, with PQQ / SQ questions focussed specifically on previous experience. As such, the bidder might reconsider bidding if they do not have sufficient experience.
  5. Insufficient supporting evidence – where a buyer asks for supporting evidence such as a Gantt chart, organisation structure, CVs, or policies and procedures to be submitted alongside a response, it is not enough to submit a well-written response and then simply append substandard or hastily thrown together supporting evidence. The evidence in many ways is an opportunity for the bidder to convey the quality and professionalism of their company in a well-presented document, and if evidence is not bespoke to the opportunity, or does not reflect what the bidder has written in a response, they can lose marks.

Possibly the most important aspect of a bid process is the review process, and not having an effective review stage is the reason why many bids fail. Our internal reviews go through three stages – a primary review, a final review and proofreading –and this is something that in-house bidders should look to emulate or outsource to bid writing experts like Executive Compass to ensure their final submission is the strongest it could possibly be.

Contact our team today to find out more about our bid support services and discuss how we can support your organisation to submit a high-quality, compliant bid.

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