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How to win when you lose a tender

Failing to win a tender is always disappointing, but using the information provided in your post-tender debrief can help you turn a single loss into a series of future wins. Here are three quick tips to help you turn buyer feedback into a competitive advantage.

Tip #1: Know what to expect in a debrief

Tip #1: Know what to expect in a debrief

Whether you win or lose in the tender process, you can ask for a debrief from the buyer. The aim is to learn, from the buyer’s viewpoint, where your solution can be improved. This can give you a better idea of your capabilities, credibility and value-add components, so you can win more business in the future.

Debriefs can take place over the phone, by e-mail or letter, or face to face, and usually cover:

  1. An explanation of how the vendor came to their final decision.
  2. An explanation of why your tender was or was not chosen.
  3. Constructive feedback about the strengths and weaknesses in your tender proposal.
Tip #2: Ask questions to maximise your feedback

Tip #2: Ask questions to maximise your feedback

It’s important to ask questions during your debrief. If the topics listed above are not fully covered, ask for details. If there’s anything outlined in the debrief that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. You could also ask:

  • Where did my proposal rank compared with others – both on technical merits and on price? Buyers are unlikely to tell you the exact price of the winning bid, but they can let you know how your price ranked compared to others.
  • Who won the tender? It’s acceptable to ask who won and why. Then you can compare your operation with the successful supplier and identify some of the differentiators.
  • How could my ideas have been better presented? If there’s a problem with the way you’re writing and structuring your proposals, you want to know about it.
  • How can my company improve our offerings to meet your future needs?  Use this as a chance for promotion and relationship development.
Tip #3: Be prepared to give the buyer feedback

Tip #3: Be prepared to give the buyer feedback

The buyer might ask for your feedback on the procurement process, especially if they’re a government agency. They’re likely to ask you what parts of the request and tender process worked well, or could use improvement. Being able to provide the buyer with valuable feedback is a powerful way to build your relationship.

Find out more about what happens after the close of a tender (external link)  and check out other resources for responding to tenders. (external link)

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