Failed Bid Review – How to Bounce Back Stronger

Failed Bid Review

It's disappointing when you don’t win. However, it is almost impossible to win them all, so it’s important to stay positive.

This article delves into how you can turn a failed bid into an asset for future success. We'll discuss how to dissect the failed bid, the significance of buyer feedback, and actionable steps to take for future bids.

Public sector bidding is frustrating. In many cases you may not have had a chance to speak to the customer buying influences beforehand and you and your colleagues will have spent hours of your time, pouring over the documents and knitting together what you feel is a fantastic response. The chances are that you will have reacted very quickly, only to wait months to get a response only to find out that “regretfully” you have not been awarded the contract.

So what can you do? 

The first thing to do is to be upbeat and remember that every lost bid is one step closer to a win. The next thing to do is to think about how you can learn from the experience.

1. Check that you met the minimum requirements

Public sector contracts typically require a level of financial scale so it’s important to check that you were of sufficient scale to compete. They generally ask that you have operational models which are compliant with standards such as ISO 14001, 18001 and 27001and these may be order qualifiers. Buyers are typically rather risk averse, ask for relevant public sector experience and look for relevant case studies too. So, check that you have ticked all of the required boxes.

2. Ask for feedback

Public sector buyers are obliged to give you feedback. However, they often seek to avoid this so please don’t be afraid to ask for it. Typically, you can expect to receive your score within each of the sections, highlighting areas of strength and weakness from the buyer’s perspective. It is worth noting that the feedback which you receive IS NOT designed to help you improve, it is designed to help you avoid legal challenge and demonstrate that the procurement regulations have been followed, so please don’t rely on it fully. All too often, we hear that feedback is a bit vague, misses facts, is late or simply has not been provided at all. Consequently, you should not see this as a comprehensive review of your efforts. Nevertheless, it is invaluable to find out how you scored in specific areas and especially how you compared on price.

3. Consider who did win and reconsider how you compete

Contract wins are generally published, and it is therefore possible to find out who has won. It is common for incumbents to retain contracts and for buyers to use the rebid as an opportunity to challenge their pricing, so please be aware of this too. Another indicator that the rebid is not as serious as you would like is when a very short lead time is provided in which to bid. This will clearly favour the incumbent. You can use this insight to adjust your bid no bid strategy.

In some cases, you may have chosen to compete against some very strong and capable competition. Did you do sufficient up-front research and consider how you were going to offer a better solution than them? Challenge yourself as to whether you properly considered who you were up against and whether you seriously devised a strategy to win.  

4. Third Party or Self-Evaluation of Your Responses

A failed bid review with a third party with experience of procurement evaluation, who are specifically seeking to help you improve, is going to be beneficial. Experts can provide additional perspective from those with vast experience from within the public sector.

5. Adopting a Buyer’s Perspective

When scoring a bid these are questions which we would suggest you ask yourself.

  • Have you fully understood the question/requirements?
  • Have you described a compliant solution?
  • Have you complied with the ITT requirements?
  • Is your price competitive?
  • Have you described an operational approach which adds social value?
  • Have you offered added value beyond the requirements to score maximum points?
  • Are your responses clear and easy to understand?

Remember that for future bids, don’t underestimate the power of a robust review procedure. A multi-stage internal review can catch errors, omissions, and areas lacking evidence. Also, time management is vital. Ideally you operate a bid process which challenges you in these areas. We suggest that you therefore consider:

  • Did your subject matter experts seriously consider how your solution was going to beat the competition?
  • Did you ensure that independent and sufficiently competent reviewers gave feedback on your submission; not those who wrote the bid who are typically “too close to it” to be objective?
  • Did you start work on it in time to allow sufficient time to review and refine?

6. Check re-use (boilerplate) material

If written well, boilerplate material can provide a strong starting point for future bids. If written poorly and with insufficient review to check that the intent of the question has been answered, the use of boiler plate and bidding software may provide an efficient way to lose. AI tools can be an important addition to the bidder’s toolkit BUT they will not replace the ability of your team to devise innovative and tailored solutions to match complex requirements, at least not yet anyway. Therefore evaluate whether your stock answers and case studies are letting you down.

7. Apply continual improvement

As with any process, you can apply continual improvement. Having conducted your review and analysis:

  • List lessons learnt and ideally collate them into a lesson learnt log.
  • Agree actions which you will take to improve.
  • Agree action owners and timelines.
  • Review whether you are clearing the actions in time and to sufficient quality.
  • Take time before your next bid to remind yourself of the ongoing lessons learnt.

Finally, you should remember that failure is not a negative thing and everybody who succeeds starts by failing. Remember that you are completing with people who will be really good at bidding, with years of experience and having failed many times before themselves.  

Please also remember that if you are a great company with a great service and that you genuinely have the interests of your customers and ultimately fellow taxpayers at heart, then you should be winning. There are many public sector suppliers who are great at bidding but then fail to deliver effectively and we need you to succeed. If this is the case, we would love to hear from you.

Find the best procurement & tender management solution for you

Fundamentally we do two things, we buy for the government, and we help others to sell to government. We have a strong blend of operational, commercial and sales experience within a team of experienced professionals, all of whom have proven success. We know what we are doing because we have done it many times before, having bought, sold and delivered £billions worth of services for and to government.

We help our valued clients win more work and achieve their business objectives.

With an excellent track record, we are confident in our approach. See our services.

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