Working closely with suppliers as an account manager in Tenders Direct, I continuously learn more about the ups and downs in the journey that suppliers go through in the public procurement environment. However, for this blog topic I look at issues from another perspective – the buyers. Specifically I am going to outline what the pet hates of buyers are when they come to evaluate tenders and some of the problems that buyers face while they manage the supplier after the contract award.
I have collated responses from first-hand communications with buyers in the public sector who we come into contact with daily through our mytenders service and support team.
Supplier responses to the tender
Common pet hates for buyers in this area include the following.
When suppliers: –
- Don’t follow the set format e.g. submitting in only PDF format / use of inconsistent fonts throughout the document.
- Don’t read the question and subsequently submitting irrelevant responses.
- Don’t provide enough detail when asked in the document e.g. writing one line responses / not directly answering the question.
- Change the order of the documents and submit documents in an illogical sequence – remember buyers will not appreciate hunting for relevant information amongst multiple attachments especially if it’s not been referenced correctly.
- Take the ‘once size fits all’ approach i.e. not tailoring the response to the authorities’ requirements.
- Try to bypass the process or get extra information outside the structure of the tender process.
- Don’t put their points across directly during presentations.
The points listed above are but a few of the many amongst the responses from the buyers but they are the most common complaints. Suppliers should take these points into consideration as this could help with them to improve future performance in bid responses. The buyers we spoke to strongly recommended that suppliers always ask questions – buyers would rather suppliers ask so they can respond with accurate information rather than make their own assumptions at what has been asked. Just make sure you always use the official Q&A log to communicate with the buyer once the tender has been released.
Supplier management after contract award
Winning a contract is always great news, however, what suppliers must not forget is that this is only the first step – the contract must be fulfilled to the best of your abilities and suppliers should take all actions necessary to ensure that they are complying with the terms and conditions they have agreed to. Many buyers have indicated that there is often a trend of suppliers changing their attitude after the contract has been awarded – at this stage suppliers know for sure that they have secured the business and then become complacent by taking a laid back attitude in getting work started. Suppliers must note that approaching the contract with confidence and being overly complacent are two separate attitudes and quite frankly buyers do not appreciate the latter.
Developing and maintaining a relationship with the buyer is just as important as putting all the effort into securing the contract in the first instance, otherwise it may be deemed a waste of time for both parties. Plus, public sector contracts only last for a defined period of time and you want to be in the strongest position possible when the contract goes up for retender.
The list below highlights some of the common problems buyers face after contract award.
When suppliers: –
- Under deliver due to overpromising in the tender.
- Don’t follow the invoicing process agreed causing unnecessary transactional issues.
- Show lack of accountability when problems arise.
- Deliver the bare minimum and not working in partnership with the buyer and accommodating to any changing needs.
- Lack of honesty e.g. covering up errors or not reporting back on KPIs effectively.
- Poor presentation by the supplier when they attend meetings.
Teething problems are inevitable in the early stages of a contract, what buyers and suppliers should ensure is that there is a plan and process in place to help resolve general or operational issues should they occur. If a situation arises where the supplier is at fault, responsibility should be accepted and solutions developed as quickly as possible – buyers would rather suppliers rise to the occasion and solve the issues proactively rather than wasting their time on trying to find the evidence to apportion blame elsewhere.
As a supplier to the public sector how many of these mistakes would you honestly say you are guilty of making? Do you feel you need more support to develop your organisation’s capabilities?
Millstream Associates offers training and consultancy services for buyers and suppliers.