We have seen feedback recently from tender evaluators across a number of sectors about tenderers not making full use of interactive sessions.
These are not references to interactive workshops associated with large Alliance or ECI-type procurement projects – they are more a variation of client briefing sessions and are appearing across many types of procurement.
Why is this important?
“First Impressions Matter”
Last year we wrote “We know that if a tenderer does not show senior management commitment or involvement in seeking opportunities and throughout the RFP process (for example, supplier briefings, presentations, negotiations) this is often discussed amongst tender evaluation teams”.
We noted that, in the words of one leading tender evaluator, “it is hard to put finger on this, but lack of senior management commitment and involvement invokes doubt on the tenderer’s ability to perform”.
It follows that how you conduct yourselves in client briefings and interactives can play a key role in forming these impressions.
As Waka Kotahi’s Contract Response Manual states, interactives provide targeted opportunities to:
- talk through specific areas, topics or issues
- discuss options and generate ideas and feedback on proposed solutions or methodologies
- facilitate open communication between people, client and shortlisted respondents and project teams
- gain alignment or commitment to courses of action or an understanding of requirements or outcomes sought by a client
- move plans forward to the next step of a process or key outcome or clarify key areas of focus or concerns
- commercially align on key principles or commercial matters that link to key technical or non-technical outcomes
- demonstrate the potential of their team and their effectiveness in collaborating with the client.
The key is to effectively engage
Interactives are increasingly used across different sectors and industries – regardless of the procurement model being used. The above list is a useful guide for any of these sectors, and a good starting point for preparing for your interactive session.
As with every aspect of tendering, it is essential to remember this step is about the client and what matters to them – and so your approach needs to be built around interacting with the client to learn more about what they really want (and need) to achieve, how they perceive risk, and exploring options around solving for those issues. There may well be stakeholder issues which are not readily apparent from the RFP – what are they?
Going into an interactive you should have two main objectives:
- build the client’s trust in you; and
- garner the information needed to inform your tender submission (real priorities, perceptions as to risks, optionality, commercial issues etc).
If you achieve these, you have taken a step in demonstrating to the client and/or tender evaluation team that they can work with you, and that you have the expertise and ability to consult to the process of delivering successful project outcomes.
And, you have gathered critical information to guide your tender response, be it around tailoring your methodology based on what you learned, changing up your approach to managing risk, or any other of the key learnings gained.
This isn’t ‘only something the big companies can do’.
To come across as organised and professional however, you can’t just ‘wing it’.
You must do your homework. If you don’t know why the client has gone to tender – find out! Be clear on the details of the RFP and learn as much as you can about ‘local issues’, stakeholders and what drives them.
Use this knowledge so that you are prepared to demonstrate your understanding and seek clarification on areas where there is uncertainty – or where you think you could add value the client might not have thought about.
This means preparing a structure you can use to ask questions and seek clarifications, but you need to remain flexible during the session – because you may learn that some of your assumptions are wrong, or that there are different priorities than you had expected.
Remember – this is not a sales pitch. Although you will go in to the session with options, listen to what is being said, test your assumptions and confirm your understanding is correct through open engagement.
This also means your team must be on the same page, and aware of what roles they are to play. Who leads? Does everyone have clarity on the area they are there to represent?
Finally, remember to request feedback – there is no harm in asking an open question to get a sense of how you went and if there might be areas you have overlooked.