The tender process can get a bit of a bad rap.
Going out to tender is often seen as a necessary annoyance; it can be complicated, time-consuming and, if things go wrong, costly. However, there are ways to make the process of finding a new supplier work for your organisation, rather than against it.
It’s worth trying to see the tender process as being beneficial to your organisation, rather than seeing it as a hindrance. This is particularly true when it comes to finding a new travel supplier; going out to tender provides your organisation with the opportunity to hold an honest evaluation of what about your current approach to travel management is working well, and what isn’t – it will also force you to look to the future and consider the direction in which your organisation is heading.
As a travel supplier, we’re no stranger to the tender process. Here’s some expert advice on how to trim down the time that your business travel tender process takes, whilst also ensuring that you get the best possible responses from potential suppliers:
1. Assign a project leader
Appointing one person to manage the process from start to finish is the best way of keeping the project on track. It’s often the case during procurement that the task gets passed on from person to person, which in turn leads to confusion and duplication of work. It’s also best to pick a project leader who has a vested interest in the outcome of the tender process – they’ll be more dedicated, as well as being more shrewd when it comes to evaluating responses.
2. Do your homework
Try to gain as much knowledge ahead of the tender process as possible by researching the market; what already exists and what’s coming in the future. Meet with suppliers, try their systems, find out what developments are in their roadmap and then use that information to define your specification, as this will give you a view of what the future supply chain looks like.
3. Be concise
Keeping requests for proposal (RFPs) short and simple and only asking questions that will help you decide which supplier is right for your organisation is the best way streamline the tender process. There are lots of template RFPs floating around online and although they provide a great base, it’s important to remember that RFPs are not a ‘one size fits all’ document and so taking the time to add in relevant questions and take out those that aren’t will pay off. You won’t be able to make an informed decision if you’re asking questions that aren’t relevant to your business travel objectives, especially if the template you’re using is out of date.
4. Don’t overlook mandatory requirements
Include your mandatory requirements within your RFP so that the responses you receive are from suppliers who stand a real chance of winning the business; trying to keep things general in order to gather as many responses as possible only wastes time in the long run. Ultimately, you may have fewer responses to evaluate but every response should be a genuine contender.
5. Entertain a variety of suppliers
Some procurement departments only send their RFPs to suppliers they’ve worked with previously or to the biggest players in the industry – big mistake. By doing this they risk missing out on smaller suppliers who are perhaps more innovative or customer-service lead than bigger players. With that in mind, it’s best practice to invite incumbents, strong contenders and a few wild cards to tender for your business.
6. Consider response formats
Giving clear instructions on how you’d liked bidders to respond is the best way to save time later on in the process; if all suppliers respond in the same format it will make it easier for you to evaluate and quickly draw fair comparisons.
7. Hold a bidders conference
Holding a bidders conference before the tender is due is a great opportunity to bring your requirements to life and address any areas that require further clarification. Use this time to make sure suppliers really get where you’re coming from and understand what you want the successful supplier to deliver. The cost of holding a teleconference is minimal but it allows suppliers to ask questions anonymously and means they hear the same answers at the same time.
8. Don’t forget debriefs
It’s always good practice to debrief both successful and unsuccessful suppliers so they know what they did well and the areas they need to improve on for future bids. This is also a great opportunity to get feedback from suppliers on your bid process to drive continual improvement.
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