Lost an important tender? It’s time to face the music.

If your firm is committed to continuous improvement, tender debriefs are essential. These seven tips will help you to make the most of those opportunities.

In the aftermath of a tender, a debrief is essential.

In Australia, between late 2018 and early 2019, 150-plus commercial law firms competed in an aggregated tender to be appointed to the country’s “billion dollar” whole-of-government legal services panel. Fewer than half (62) were successful, though no doubt many of those firms will be disappointed in the parameters of their appointment.

The firms that were unsuccessful, or less successful than they hoped, have three choices:

  1. Play the blame game
  2. Pretend it never happened
  3. Learn from the experience.

If your firm is committed to learning from the experience, a tender debrief is essential. The government will inevitably extend that invitation shortly. With that in mind, here are eight tips to help you make the most of the opportunity.

1.  Cut to the chase

You know now how many firms were appointed for each area of law – it’s in the public domain. What you don’t know – but would benefit from knowing – is how your firm was ranked overall:

  • What were the evaluation criteria?
  • How were the evaluation criteria weighted?
  • What did you score for each criterion? (Where were your strengths and weaknesses?)
  • Where were you ranked for each criterion?

2.  Method in the madness

In this instance, the government appointed 62 firms across 27 areas of law. In one area of law just nine firms were appointed; in another, 25.

How did the government arrive at the number of firms appointed to each sub-panel? Was it an arbitrary figure or did firms have to score above a certain number to be appointed?

3.  A tough pill to swallow

Now you know where you ranked overall, probe a little deeper so you can better understand where you fell short. Here, the goal is to glean whether you missed out as a result of things that were within your control (for example, decisions you made or the quality of your submission) or due to factors which were beyond your control (such as your firm’s credentials relative to your competitors).

There’s lots you can explore here: your approach to managing risk, your approach to conflicts, your account management methodology, the nature and worth of your value adds…

Remember, this is a learning experience so whilst it might be painful to hear you screwed up, you need to know so you don’t make the same mistake again.

4.  Talk to the brand

At the end of the day, tenders are sales documents so it would be remiss not to seek feedback on the format, layout, structure and readability of your document.

Was your submission compliant?

So, too, should you explore the issuer’s response to your strategy. How did you differentiate your firm? Did the evaluation panel understand your unique value proposition?

5.  The price point

By default, most professional services firms assume they lose tenders on price. In fact, that’s not as common as you might think. Still, your debrief provides an excuse to seek feedback on your pricing – especially your alternative pricing – and to gauge how competitive and innovative your firm is perceived to be on price.

Because this exercise involved the appointment of a mix of small, medium and large firms, you’d be wise to also explore where your firm was positioned on price within your band.

Had your price been as competitive as the winning firms, or more competitive than it was, would you have been successful? I suspect not, but you’ll feel better by asking.

7.  People who need people

As a professional services firm you’re only as good as your people. Make sure you ask for feedback on your team.

  • Did you present sufficient breadth and depth?
  • Were your profiles tailored to the opportunity?
  • Was it apparent that your team members have relevant credentials and recent experience?
  • Was your account management team considered suitable?

8.  Independence Day

Finally, engage someone independent – internal or external – to do your debrief. Because that person is not emotionally invested they’ll be more objective and less likely to sanitise, skew, misinterpret or withhold feedback. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”