Well not exactly. Now your bid will be scored and evaluated and, whether your bid is scored highly or not, what happens next is another important step on your journey towards winning more public sector business.
In some cases, the buyer will want to examine your bid in greater detail and really get a sense of how you will meet their requirements for themselves. If this happens, you might be asked to present your bid, attend a face to face interview or be asked to arrange a visit to one of your clients’ premises in order to help the buyer better understand how you’ll fulfil the requirement.
This is a good position to be in, as in most cases it means that your bid is being taken seriously by the buying authority and you are well in the running for being awarded the contract.
The tender documentation will specify whether or not any additional visits, interviews or presentations will be required after you submit your bid. There are a number of reasons why this might be required, and a number of ways for you to help boost your bid.
In some contracts, for example a service contract, the awarding authority may wish to inspect your organisation’s premises or a location where you currently perform the activities associated with the contract. If this is the case, they could specify a site visit in the tender documentation.
The site visit is your opportunity to show off your place of work or a location where you perform the activities and it may also give you a chance to introduce your team to the buyer. Make it friendly and professional, and plan the tour well in advance.
Buyers may wish to conduct interviews with shortlisted tenderers to clarify certain aspects of their tenders and allow suppliers to elaborate more on the merits of their proposals.
The interview process must be the same for everyone invited to be interviewed, although questions that are specific to particular tenders are permitted.
The buyer should also record the outcome of the Interview Stage in a written report, including the scores awarded to each tenderer and the reason for the scores both as good practice and as evidence if the final award result were to be challenged.
The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 allow, for the first time, for persons delivering a contract and who will have a significant impact on the delivery of that contract, to be evaluated at the tender stage. This may take the form of an interview and will be scored and weighted and should be identified in the award criteria in the original specification.
Presentations could be used as an opportunity for you to show that your proposed equipment works or to give a full demonstration of the solution in action.
A presentation is probably most likely to be required in a supplies contract, where the tender specification required a piece of equipment, machinery or software solution. The presentation will allow the buyer to see the solution and test the results for themselves.
You’ll be told about these in advance at tender specification stage. They will make up part of your overall scoring and you’ll also be told how they’re weighted in the tender documents.
However, in some cases a further stage of the procurement journey may be deemed necessary if the buying authority wants to ask any questions about your tender in order to help them make a decision.
In these instances, the buyer might call for a Clarification meeting. This can be called if the authority wants to ask you questions about your bid or to clear up any issues they might have about your response.
This will almost always be a face to face meeting. If this happens, you should answer all questions as fully as possible and make sure the buyer leaves with any concerns fully addressed and resolved. This meeting is not scored, but may result in the scores already awarded being adjusted accordingly.
After the bid is submitted and all evaluations and scoring is complete, the decision is largely out of your hands, but that still doesn’t mean the job is done.
At this point, you’ll be faced with one of two outcomes, both of which require some further actions on your part.
Unfortunately, this happens. But it’s important to remember that you weren’t successful this time.
Understanding why you weren’t successful and learning from this experience for your next tender is what turns a good bidder into a winning bidder.
If you feel you’ve been unfairly treated during the process, you can challenge the award decision. If you want more information about why your tender wasn’t successful, seek further clarification and information on the specification and learn from those who did win.
If you are unsuccessful, make sure you ask for a debrief. You are entitled to feedback and it will help you to understand where you went wrong. Use this information to your advantage in later bids and learn from your mistakes.
But remember, no one scores full marks and there are always lessons to learn for next time.
In the EU, you are entitled to feedback from the awarding authority on your performance, called a Decision Notice.
It will outline where you scored highly, where you were weak, and what little mistakes may have cost you a point here or there.
Improving on these little things for next time could end up being the deciding factor in your success in a future business opportunity.
An award decision notice must be sent to all tenderers once a decision has been reached.
In it, the buying authority must outline the reasons for their decision, the scores your received and, if you weren’t the winning bidder, how your score differed from the winning bid.
This is essentially a written debrief and will outline exactly why you won or lost the contract. As such, it is a crucial piece of intelligence which you should always study well.
There is no restriction on what you can ask at this debrief stage; however, it is unlikely that the buyer will provide you with details of another bidder’s price, any commercially sensitive information relating to their business or the full scorings for other unsuccessful bidders.
Once the decision has been made, a standstill period will begin.
The Standstill Period provides for a short pause between the point when bidders are notified of the award decision and the final contract conclusion.
During this time suppliers which have not won the contract can legally challenge the decision.
The purpose of the standstill is to allow suppliers to challenge the decision if they think they have been treated unfairly or if they believe their tender was not given appropriate consideration.
By properly applying the Standstill Period, authorities can ensure that their procurement exercise was conducted fairly and transparently. In addition, if you believe you have been dismissed from the procurement process unfairly, this is your chance to put your case forward formally.
If the tender is conducted electronically (sent by email or fax), a Standstill Period of 10 working days will apply.
For other, non-electronic procurement exercises, a 15-day period will be in effect.
For non-OJEU contracts, ie those under the EU threshold values, the Standstill Period is voluntary and so may not be put in place by the buyer.
It is a big step to decide to challenge the decision when you have bid for a public sector contract and you have not won.
However, it’s important to understand what grounds you may have to challenge a decision or, if you won the contract, what challenges might be brought against the awarding authority which could delay or stop the contract award.
You may think you have the perfect solution to the particular specification. However, you shouldn’t mistake your disappointment for genuine mistreatment.
If you have not articulated and proved your qualities in the bid submission, you have no grounds to get the awarding authority to reconsider, no matter how compelling your argument.
If you do decide to challenge, make sure that your grounds for a challenge are clear, you have real evidence and that evidence points to a process that has been misapplied.
Ultimately, the impact of your decision to challenge will not count against you in future even if your challenge is unsuccessful (unless, of course, your decision is trivial and only designed to cause harm).
It will take time and effort to pursue your challenge. However, if you are successful and your challenge is upheld, it will be worth it.
We’ve now explained the procurement process in full: from finding a contract to winning the bid and what happens after the decision is made. If you follow the steps given in this Guide, you should start to see success in public procurement in no time.
But understanding the process is one thing. Putting this process into practice and understanding the wider rules and regulations surrounding it is another.
In the European Union in particular, rules, regulations and legislation exist to govern public procurement, to keep it transparent and, most importantly, to help businesses like yours.
Understanding this legislation will definitely improve your bids, so let’s get started.