Following on from Tendering Process, here is another frequently asked question regarding public sector tender procedures:
Should I ask Tender Clarification Questions?
Yes. If you have areas of uncertainty, it is generally better to ask than have any ambiguity.
If your question is regarding the specification and you don’t clarify things you might price the tender incorrectly – too high (and lose) or too low (and win but make a loss).
If you are unsure about the meaning of a question or evaluation method (eg it can be read in two ways) you might make the wrong assumptions and therefore respond incorrectly… and lose marks… and maybe lose the tender!
Some people worry when their question is commercially sensitive but generally you can ask to keep your question private if you feel that you will lose a competitive advantage. However, it might still be better to lose an advantage and gain full clarification – weigh up the pros and cons.
Many people see the tendering process as an almost administrative task but do remember it is just a formalised way of selling; if you were at a sales appointment you would naturally ask about anything you were unsure of.
Asking Tender Clarification Questions
Although it isn’t often allowed, wherever possible do phone to ask your questions rather than email – a chance to start a business relationship and also to open-out the question to gain a better understanding.
Just make sure that you have double-checked your question as you don’t want to appear daft by asking about something that you have simply misread or that is answered elsewhere. Also you don’t want to overload them with questions so chose careful but do ask if unsure.
TIP: tender questions are generally shared with all bidders so don’t be the first to ask questions; let others go first and hopefully ask some of your questions thus reducing your list of queries.
Unfortunately, if the tender documents are badly written then it is quite possible that the whole process will be painful. So don’t always expect that you will receive helpful responses to your clarifications questions. But if that is the case, remember that all other tenders are in the same position as you.
Tenders take a lot of time and effort so you want to maximise your chances of winning – if in doubt ask for clarification.