Lesson 4: The Tender Process

There is no formal or standard tender process, but most clients will follow this typical process.  

  1. Request for Tender is prepared
  2. Tenders are released
  3. Register interest
  4. Attend information sessions
  5. Respond to the tender
  6. Evaluation and selection process
  7. Notification and debriefing
  8. Contracts and project implementation

Let’s work through each stage, step by step. 

Step 1 – Request for Tender is prepared by the client 

The Request for Tender (RFT) outlines what is required, the contractual requirements, and how you should respond.  

Step 2 – Request for Tender is released by the client 

There are several ways to release a tender document.

Open Tendering

These tenders are made public through advertising or tender notification services.  

With an open tender, there are no restrictions placed on who can submit a response. Suppliers are required to submit all required information and are evaluated against the selection criteria. 

Select Tendering

A select tender is only open to a select pool of suppliers. Suppliers may be shortlisted from an open tender, or be a collection of businesses the organisation has worked with previously. 

Multi-Stage Tendering

Multi-stage tendering is used for large numbers of respondents. At each stage in the process, suppliers are removed to find those most suited to the contract requirements. 

Individual Tendering

Invited tendering occurs when a client contacts select suppliers directly and requests them to perform the contract. This approach is generally used for specialist work, emergency situations or for low value, low risk and off-the-shelf options. 

Step 3 – Registering your interest 

You will often need to register your interest to submit a tender. Different clients will have different requirements, but instructions are usually found in the tender documents.   

TENDER TIP

The tender documents may change. It’s important to have one point of contact to receive information about the document. This should be someone available for the duration of the tender process.  

They will need to read all emails sent regarding the tender and disseminate any information quickly. 

Step 4 – Attending the information sessions 

As busy as you are, and as inconvenient as it may be, try to attend any information sessions offered. These are valuable opportunities to ask questions and contact the client. In these sessions, information can be shared which you may not have thought important or even considered.  

REMEMBER

Your competitors will also attend these information sessions. 

Being present will ensure they don’t obtain an advantage while also gaining a better understanding of who you’re competing against. 

Step 5 – Understanding the requirements 

It’s time to state the obvious:  

YOU MUST READ EACH SECTION OF THE RFT.  THOROUGHLY! 

You would be surprised how many people don’t do this and then wonder why they didn’t win the bid.  

Collate the RFT documents and assemble your tender team if it is relevant for your business. It’s important that your team can evaluate the documents from differing perspectives within the organisation. Make a note of any extra requirements, such as reference letters, financial information, insurance certificates, health and safety manuals, or procedures that may be required.  

TENDER TIP

Don’t leave assembling these extra requirements to the last minute. If you require letters of reference or referees, give them plenty of notice to prepare.  

REMEMBER: Now is the time to pay close attention to: 

  • The closing time of the tender 
  • What you need to submit to be compliant 
  • How many copies must be provided, and  
  • How it will be lodged (in person, to a tender box, electronically, etc). 

The next step is to prepare your tender proposal. This includes planningwritingdevelopingpolishing and refining it.  

Gathering information  

Information gathering is essential to the tendering process. It is an ongoing task for all members of the tender team.  

The initial tender team meeting should identify: 

  • Key information that needs to be sourced 
  • Who is responsible for sourcing the information, and  
  • The date it needs to be available. 

Submitting your response 

Don’t wait until the closing date to submit your response!  

Missing a tender deadline happens more often than it should. Don’t invest valuable resources in your submission, only to waste them by missing the closing date or time. Make sure you are aware of any time zone differences. 

Many tenders are lodged online. Leaving your submission to the last minute makes you vulnerable to potential issues, including overloaded servers and other technical challenges.   

Lodge early

Remember the client may seek clarifications on your offer.  This may be more information or perhaps asking for Best and Final Offer, which means you submitting your final price. 

Step 6 – Evaluation and selection 

Tender responses are usually evaluated by a committee. As a first step, each submission will be checked for compliance with the: 

  • Tender documents 
  • Tender conditions 
  • Tender specifications.  
  • This is where the attention to detail is vital: if you haven’t read the tender documents thoroughly and addressed all the requirements, it will be clear at this point.  

If your submission is compliant, it will be evaluated against the criteria specified in the tender documentation. The submission with the best offer to the client – which includes value for money, demonstrated success delivering the goods and services, and offers significant added value – will win the business.  

But remember, value for money does not necessarily mean the lowest price.  

Presenting to a panel 

If you need to present your offer in front of an evaluation panel, stay focused on the key messages of your proposal. Most importantly: prepare, plan your presentation carefully, rehearse and, if you don’t feel you’re a strong presenter, get some coaching. 

Shortlisting  

The client compiles a shortlist of tenderers based on responses to the selection criteria. They will often seek further information, such as: 

  • Clarification questions 
  • A formal presentation in support of the tender, or 
  • A demonstration of the proposed solution.  

They will then use this information for the final evaluation before choosing their preferred supplier.  

TENDER TIP

  • The shortlisting phase often involves the tenderer making a presentation to key parties related to the client.  
  • Presentations and meetings should be used to expand on your initial offering. They may also include price negotiations. 
  • See the Presentation Download for you to customise your next Tender Presentation. 

Step 9 – Notification and debriefing 

When a contract has been awarded, the successful tenderer will be advised in writing.  

Unsuccessful tenderers are also advised and are usually offered an opportunity to debrief. I would urge you to take up this opportunity if you are unsuccessful. Feedback from the evaluation panel can be invaluable in preparing your next tender. Debriefing is a great way to improve your next bid.  

Download the Tender Debrief Document for questions you can ask. 

Step 10 – Addressing concerns and complaints 

If you have concerns or complaints about the tender process, first raise your issues with the client. Always communicate reasonably and professionally. You can also contact your state’s small business representative or Ombudsman.  

Finally, if you remain unsatisfied with these processes, you can seek legal advice. 

Step 11 – Contracts and project implementation 

Generally, a formal agreement will be required between the successful tenderer and the client. The contract comprises the information provided to and by the successful tenderer, including: 

  • Conditions of Tender  
  • Specifications, plans and other attachments  
  • Standard Conditions of Contract. 

The contract will outline the responsibilities of the contractor and the client. Payment will be made at completion of the contract, or as outlined in the payment schedule. It’s wise to have your contract looked at by a legal representative before you sign. You may be excited about winning the work, but you still need to have due diligence when it comes to the fine print and signing your name or your company to the deal. 

Negotiations 

Once the preferred tenderer(s) have been selected, the client will enter contract negotiations. Negotiations may be important to ensure that all parties share the same understanding of the outcomes and that tendered prices are fair, reasonable and comparable. 

Lodging a competitive tender is relatively easy. Submitting a winning tender relies on careful preparation and an understanding of the tendering process.