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Getting the most out of supplier engagement events

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Supplier engagement events are your chance to find out exactly what the procurement team is looking for, so make sure you get the most out of them.

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Tendering is a time-consuming business, and the prospect of attending a supplier engagement event might seem superfluous when you can download the tendering pack straight to your desktop and get started. However, making time to go to an event can be valuable for a number of reasons, not least the chance to find out exactly what the commissioning authority is looking for.

What is the purpose of a supplier engagement event?

Supplier engagement events can take several different forms. Commissioning authorities regularly hold ‘early market engagement’ workshops before setting out their requirements in a formal tender. This is often an exercise to find out what’s available in the market, what’s new in terms of the services they are looking to procure, current best practice and to gauge the size and number of potential providers. As well as informing the services they are commissioning, it is also a way of alerting the market to their intentions, and getting their name on the radar of potential suppliers, with the aim of generating a greater number of high quality responses when the time comes.

Attending an early market engagement event is an opportunity to make contact and raise your profile with the buyer. Not only will you learn what services they are looking for, and potentially how they want them delivered, you will also be in a position to offer advice and insight which might strengthen your position when it comes to tendering.

Supplier engagement events are also held as part of the formal tendering process to give potential providers information on what the commissioning authority wants.

A typical agenda might include:

  • Giving an update from a previous ‘early engagement event’.
  • Sharing details on their commissioning intentions and what they want to achieve—and importantly how this might differ from what they currently do.
  • Identifying opportunities and challenges for providers.
  • Sharing information on the procurement model and timetable being adopted.
  • Demonstrations of the e-procurement system to be used.

This is your chance to quiz the people who have created the tender, and who will evaluate the response, and is a golden opportunity to find out exactly what they want to see from a potential provider, and to get a clear insight into what is most important to them.

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Getting the most out of it

Commissioning authorities are keen to see a wide mix of potential providers attending their events. So, how do you go about it and extract the most value?

  • Firstly, make sure you are registered to receive alerts and newsletters informing you of invitations to attend provider engagement events.
  • Decide who is best placed in your organisation to attend—many events will restrict the number of people who can come from a single organisation, so make sure the person nominated is available and registers as soon as possible.
  • Be prepared—provider engagement events are interactive, so expect an element of brainstorming, workshops and Q&A sessions. Prepare a list of questions that you want to know the answers to.
  • Use the information gathered as part of your bid/no bid exercise—the insights you gather, for example on the potential pipeline of work, can be crucial to your decision.
  • Collect as much information about what the commissioning authority is looking for as you can. When the tender documents come out, review these together and make sure the key messages are reflected in your responses.
  • Not only are events a chance to quiz the key procurement team, there might also be additional information and training available; for example, customer engagement or managing TUPE.
  • Networking—it might seem counter intuitive, as most of the people in the room will be potential competitors, but meet the buyer events are a good opportunity to make contacts. By widening your network, you could find a potential partner to bid with on a future framework, or meet someone who is looking for a sub-contractor, or who you might sub-contract work to.

Meet the buyer events are held to help you with the tender writing process. By understanding what evaluators are looking for, and by gathering as much information as you can about their requirements, it will enhance your understanding of the assessment criteria and, ultimately, your chances of success.

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