Four Steps to Success:
Become a Supplier of a Public or Private Organization
This article explains the four steps to successfully participate in the procurement process.
STEP 1. Plan and Get Ready to Bid
Planning ahead is crucial for success: remember that the time available to answer a request for a bid is very limited, and once a bid is published it may be too late for you to react.
Before a bid advertisement gets published, both buyers and suppliers have a lot to do. While public and private organizations plan what to buy, how, when, and with what resources, you need to undertake market research and business development activities to find out what your potential clients’ needs are and what they will be buying in the future.
The chances of getting awarded a contract are much higher if you do the following in advance to the publication of a bid notice:
§ Extensive research about the market
§ Build a relationship with your potential clients and know their needs and purchasing plans
§ Prepare the standard materials needed to submit with proposals or offers
§ Train your staff on how to write a proposal
§ Explore potential collaborations with other companies, so, if needed, you know with whom you can partner when opportunities arise.
Your offer is your opportunity to showcase your company and convince the buyer that your solution (good, work or service) is the best in the market to satisfy its needs.
Offer preparation is a learning process. Preparing an offer for the first time (or for a new client) can be complex, expensive and time consuming, and it is not surprising that companies get very frustrated when a bid is not awarded to them. Every bid is different, and it is very important that you examine carefully the bid documents and follow the instructions provided. Often, companies make basic mistakes and get disqualified from the procurement process due to non-compliance with the stipulations of the request for bids.
Always keep in mind that the final objective of submitting an offer is to win the contract. State what makes you unique and the benefits of working with you. In many occasions, bidders do not show in their offers the understanding of the scope of work and the client’s needs, and what they propose is far away from what the client really wants. This is why it is important to know your clients well. Read the bidding documents as many times as needed, discuss the bid with other people from your company who know the client, and work in a team when preparing for the offer. Do not assume that all evaluators are experts on the subject matter. Make sure that your proposal is clear, coherent, and attractive.
Congratulations! You have won the contract. Now, the most difficult challenge starts: perform and complete your delivery or project successfully. Keep in mind that client satisfaction and good performance is the best way to ensure future contracts. Make sure you deliver on time, on budget and in compliance with the quality expected by the client. Suppliers that fail to fulfil their contractual obligations may be disqualified from participation in future bidding.
Open, honest communication with the client is essential. Keep your client updated about how you are executing against the terms of the contract. Be ready to respond to unexpected issues that may affect project execution, service or goods delivery (weather conditions, a political change, a team member that gets ill, a needed input from your supplier that gets delayed, etc.) and have a mitigation plan to resolve any issue as soon as possible. Discuss and seek agreement with your client in case there is a need to make any modification to the established timelines, budget or project scope. Make sure your client understands you are doing everything you can to deliver on time, on budget and on scope.
Finally, do not expect full payment until you have fulfilled all contractual obligations and the client has accepted the project deliveries. The contract cannot be considered formally closed until then. Once the project has been closed, remember to ask your client for a reference or completion certificate. This will be useful to participate in future bids.
The procurement market is a highly competitive market and companies need to continually improve their performance in order to be successful. Once a contract has been closed, team members should undertake a post-contract review and discuss what went well, what didn't, what could be improved and lessons learned. This will help you improve the delivery of future projects with this and other clients.
It is also important to ask for the client’s feedback. This will help you better understand if the client was satisfied with your company and the goods, works or services provided. Following up with the client will also help you assess the possibilities of working with the organization again and how regular future demands could be.
You should also develop a review mechanism to keep track of successful bids and failures. This will help you identify if you are doing things in the right way, what type of bids you are more successful, and where and when it is worth investing resources. With time and experience you will be more selective with the bids you apply for to maximize your chances of success. Self-assessment of your performance is a very important step in the learning process.