What You Can Learn from a Losing Tender Submission

Mar 27, 2021Bid Management, Bid Training, Tender Process, Tender Writing

Sometimes, no matter how much work you put into your tender submission, or how good your bid/no-bid decision process is, you end up with the result you didn’t want – a loss. It’s not an experience that anyone likes, but to quote Author and Entrepreneur Adam Osborne, ‘The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect.’

Fortunately, the tender process gives us plenty of opportunities to learn from a losing bid. Here are some of the things you can consider if you find yourself looking at a losing tender submission.

Ask for Feedback

You should receive feedback from the procuring organisation as a matter of course, whether you win or lose. If you don’t receive this, ask a post-tender clarification to get it. There is a legal requirement to provide this information to you under the public procurement regulations.

This feedback should show you how well you scored on each element of your tender submission, and how you compared to the winning bidder.

Losing on Price

The most common type of loss that we see at Bid for Success is where our clients have scored well on quality but lost on price. If this situation occurs, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • Was this the right bid for us? If you offer a quality service but the bid was weighted heavily towards price, it probably wasn’t the right opportunity for you.
  • Did we make a mistake with pricing? How clear was the specification, and was the tender priced to it? Rather than make assumptions re. pricing, ask clarification questions to make sure you price as keenly as possible.
  • Did the winner buy the work? If your pricing was right, did the winning bidder choose to bid intentionally low in order to secure the contract? While not a sustainable business model, this does happen on occasion if a contract is of tactical importance, or there is some other reason the bidder needs to win. This could give you important competitor information to use going forward.

How Did Your Tender Submission Compare?

Looking at the quality and social value element of the tender submission, how did you do compare to your peers? This can be a useful benchmarking exercise, particularly if you are trying to grow your business and win a new level of contract. Looking at the relative scores will show you where you need to up your game to compete with the big boys.

Do You Have a Weakness?

Was there one area of questioning that you did particularly poorly? If so, that allows you to set some priorities for improving your bid library going forward. If you’re not the subject matter expert in that area, it’s worth scheduling some time with them to look at the result and work out what was missing from the response to get a winning score. In our experience this is likely to be lack of detail; the more specific detail, processes, facts and figures that you can include in a response the more likely you are to score highly.

Were you Compliant and Responsive?

Winning tenders don’t just meet the specification (though you will certainly lose if you don’t!) but they go beyond that and address the unspoken needs of the organisation. People buy from people, even in the tenders process, and if you can show that you understand the human problems of the evaluators then you will score more highly.

The Tender Submission Process

Just by submitting a tender, you’ve gained a lot of valuable information and, assuming you want to work with this organisation again, that’s valuable. You’ll have learned:

  • More about their organisation, and what their requirements and unspoken needs are.
  • You’ve become known to them, through your submission and any participation in site visits, meet the buyer days etc.
  • You’ve completed their tender submission process, and understand what they’re looking for
  • You’ve got a clear idea of how close you got to being their chosen supplier

You Can Question and Challenge

If you’re still not clear on something even after looking at the feedback, it is possible to ask post-tender clarification questions. If you’ve done this and you believe that an unfair decision has been made then it is possible to challenge the decision as part of the tender submission process. Information on how to follow both these steps should be available in the tender documents or on the portal you used for submission.

Get an External Viewpoint

If you’ve had one or more disappointing results and you’re not sure why then it might be time to call in outside help. We all get too close to our work at times and having someone else review it and give their feedback is a great way to learn. At Bid for Success, all of our work is peer-reviewed before it is sent to the client to make sure that it’s as good as we can make it, and we’re happy to review your past bids too. If you’d like to have us involved in a post-bid review and help you maximise your learning from the loss, get in touch today.


Adrian Corcoran

Adrian Corcoran is Managing Director and Founder of Bid for Success. Passionate about working with great businesses to win them new work, she and the Bid for Success team are here to help you with your bidding and work winning needs.


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