Over the past four decades, I have had the opportunity to evaluate or be part of an evaluation team for both private and public sector RFPs.
Both sectors have a unique and different way of conducting this process.
On the surface, both sectors have a fixed set of evaluation criteria, with the scoring matrix attached to each RFP. The points for each category may vary depending on the importance of the weighing factors of each project and RFP.
Some rely heavily on price, while others may be more concerned with the technical aspects and the experience of the contractor, related to the specific type of project in question.
The purchasing term that is most recognized for the award process as the winning bid should be the “best acceptable or qualified bid,” following the criteria set out in the scoring matrix of each RFP.
To maintain the appearance of an open, fair and transparent system in the award of the contract, this is done by matching each bid against a predetermined set of scoring factors.
My issue has always been with the ability for the evaluators to be fair and non-bias with the information set out by the bidders in the RFPs. Sometimes the answers to the questions are too subjective and are left for interpretation by the evaluators.
When bidding on projects, contractors need to give specific information related to the questions and scoring criteria.
If one section of the RFP consists of three points: how many water treatment plants have you built in Ontario; over $1 million per project; in the last five years, you need to have specific answers to the questions to get all three points.
Any variation of answer that is open to interpretation and not directly hitting all three points in detail will not get you the full marks.
I spent years working with contractors responding to the questions on RFPs with direct and exact answers that covered each point being scored. I would let the contractors fill out the RFP first and I would then mark them, showing how many points they would have received without my assistance.
After that was done, I would take those answers given by the contractors and fine tune them. The revised answers after this review would better match the scoring process to get maximum value to win the bids.
By following this process, I rarely lost a bid, and often won with a higher price, having received full points in all the other categories.
I have always said, “It is not always the most qualified contractor that wins, but the most qualified person filling out the RFP.”
When you know how to answer the questions it is hard to lose and gives you the upper hand in winning the bids.
An experienced purchasing manager is worth his, or her, weight in gold if they can A) write a comprehensive RFP with all relevant scoring criteria matching the specific requirements of the project, and B) alternatively respond to RFPs with laser focused answers.
Should you have people presently working for you in purchasing that can do both, pay them accordingly and make sure you don’t lose them to a competitor.
In my experience, when people learn from their mistakes when losing a bid and ask for the debrief from the owner to see where they made the mistakes, they will benefit greatly on the next opportunity.
Without a debrief, you will continue to fall short of winning bids, not having the most informed and accurate information available at the time of bidding.
I would strongly recommend contractors and venders make sure to find out how they lost points on the present bid to be able to correct those mistakes on the next bid.
Armed with the knowledge of how to respond to RFPs will be the most cost-effective way to increase your profitably.
Stephen Bauld is a government procurement expert and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of his columns may contain excerpts from The Municipal Procurement Handbook published by Butterworths.