“Damn! We put in all that work and still didn’t win the tender. What more can they want?”
Missing out on a tender that you really wanted is a very deflating experience and this “tenderers lament” will sound very familiar to many of you. The debrief sessions offered to unsuccessful tenderers can be very useful to get an understanding of the evaluation panel’s mindset during the process. What is going through their minds as they approach the debriefing sessions? Let’s have a look.
Understanding the panel’s mindset
Evaluation panels may not like conducting debrief sessions for unsuccessful tenderers and being the bearer of bad news. They may want to get through the debrief and move on to the project. If it’s been a project that has spread over months, they may yearn for their normal weeks and routines.
There are two types of debriefs: the straight bats and the cross bat swipe.
1. Straight bat
The unlucky debrief. Agencies sometimes do this if they are not confident of their assessments or the evaluation panel cannot clearly articulate the reasons why you did not win. In most cases you won’t get any meaningful ideas on how or where you can improve and you will undoubtedly find
this extremely frustrating and of little value. This version includes plenty of official tender jargon borrowed from the RFT and the evaluation plan.
2. A lusty swipe
Cross bat swipe – Many agencies genuinely want to help companies do better and provide debriefs that are full of useful tips to make your next tender much more competitive. Using another cricketing metaphor this approach is like the lusty cross bat swipe that sails over the fence for 6; more risky but infinitely more effective and useful for scoring runs. Just like a skilled batsman an experienced debriefing officer is unperturbed by the risk and provides feedback that is much more useful for the unsuccessful tenderer.
A recent client provides a good example.
They had submitted a tender to deliver professional services throughout eastern Australia. This was a big project for them and would have taken their business to a completely new level.
My client was naturally disappointed they did not get the tender but they attended the debrief session eager to learn how they could improve their next bid. The debriefing officer gave them positivefeedback regarding their very strong risk analysis, excellent professional skills, track record, low cost per customer and well proven methodologies. In terms of weaknesses the debriefing officer was very forthcoming in suggesting their project plan and budgets required more detail and that they needed to provide more evidence that they had the capacity and support networks to deliver. The end result is that my client now has a blueprint for improvement to ensure they are more competitive with their next tender.
Would they have learnt this if they hadn’t taken up the offer of a debrief session and been positive? Not likely; they would have blundered on in ignorance, probably making the same mistakes again, getting the same result and becoming increasingly disenchanted with tendering as a way of growing their business.
Will they win the next tender they bid for? There are no guarantees but one thing for
sure – they will be much more competitive. And it was certainly worth the phone call and
20 minutes gathered around the conference phone in their boardroom.
Take the opportunity for a debrief session if it is offered. Go along with a series of positive and well prepared questions and make it clear that you are there to learn how to do a better job next time. Make the panel feel relaxed and you may be surprised by the quality and usefulness of the feedback you receive.