Responding to a Request for Information (RFI) and bidding for a contract can be a long and expensive process. All the effort invested makes losing an opportunity even more disappointing. It can also be difficult to understand why your bid failed.
For buyers, being unsure about the level of supplier risk involved is the most common reason for choosing one response over the other.
86% of senior procurement officers surveyed for Consero’s 2017 Procurement and Strategic Sourcing Report believe suppliers underestimate the importance of minimising risk. Demonstrating supplier pre-qualification, and proving a lower risk proposition, gives you a much higher chance of winning contracts.
While there is no magic formula that will guarantee a successful outcome for every RFI response, following these five simple tips could go a long way to improving your success rates:
1) Ask the right questions
Thorough research makes all the difference between an average bid and one that makes buyers sit up and take notice. The most important thing for suppliers is showing an understanding of the buyer’s business and their key priorities as part of the RFI process.
This is going to vary depending on the buyer’s region, sector and regulatory environment. If you are bidding for contracts from public utility operators and public authorities in the EU, you will need to be aware of the procurement regulations that came into effect in 2016 that incorporate the negotiation of contract terms. Latin American buyers in the mining industry, on the other hand, will be looking for suppliers that can help them reduce costs, work transparently and drive efficiencies.
You can then demonstrate how your products, services and way of working fit with the buyer’s own operations, and highlight your unique selling points in the process.
2) Have the information readily available
Building a library of prequalification documents containing the information needed to respond to an RFI not only saves time, but also ensures only the most relevant and up-to-date information is included in your response.
Over time you will build up a bank of documents commonly requested by buyers and answers to commonly-asked questions.
Here are some examples of what to include:
• Company policies (such as health and safety, corporate social responsibility, data protection and quality assurance)
• Technical specifications for your products and services
• Insurance details
• Testimonials, references and case studies
• Supply chain management details
• Risk registers
• Proof of compliance (e.g. certificates and registration documents)
• Templates for creating new bid documents
• Examples of previously successful bid documents
It is crucial that you regularly review the information to make sure it remains fit for purpose. Again, precisely what is needed will depend on your region and sector of interest. Buyers from the Nordic area, for example, will need substantial assurance on your health and safety and corporate social responsibility record and credentials.
3) Get third-party assurance
One of the first things buyers will look for is any assurance and accreditations they hold. If you have an external prequalification or you have been audited by a trusted organisation, buyers are more likely to view you as a credible potential partner.
Your assurance can include country-specific or globally recognised qualifications and registrations, which are not always compulsory. However, ‘nice-to-have’ qualifications can indicate to a buyer a lower potential supplier risk, so it can be a good idea to get these as well.
It is also important to focus on your industry. This is what our communities are all about, giving industry-specific assurance to suppliers, so buyers always have a pool of pre-qualified, competent and audited suppliers to choose from.
4) Know your customer
Staying on top of your compliance requirements is essential for winning contracts. You should start by checking the compliance needs of the buyer, even if you’ve worked with them before, as requirements can change. For example, the Brazilian government announced in July 2019 that it would be drafting new legislation on public procurement that could change the requirements for suppliers looking to win contracts. Many buyers are also now looking for their suppliers to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and carbon reduction in their operations.
We believe in the benefits of going above and beyond basic compliance requirements to stand out from the competition.
5) Shout about your achievements
Buyers always want to know that the suppliers they work with are reliable and have a good track record.
One of most effective ways to show this is through references and testimonials from previous contracts, which can be included in bid documents or displayed on the relevant company collateral, including the supplier’s website and brochures.
Achilles Community members, who are fully validated, have access to a registration stamp and certificate. These can be used to promote your prequalification status, for example by placing it on your website. Sometimes even the smallest boost to your credibility can be the difference between winning and losing a bid, so don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your achievements.