- When to use — Some bid proposals are simple. Others are more complex due to specifications, the number of suppliers bidding, the amount of business to be awarded, the critical nature of the resulting contract, and so on. For those bid situations that are more complex, a prebid or preproposal conference may be an appropriate way to communicate information to the supply base.
- How to arrange and conduct — At the prebid conference, the sourcing team meets with all potential suppliers that attend. Usual topics at these meetings include blueprints and specifications, SOWs, quotation due dates, terms and conditions of quotation, proposal evaluation criteria, delivery schedules and materials, releasing procedures, invoicing procedures and documentation (including incentives), requirements if awarded business (such as reporting, insurance, background checks, security clearances and permits) and other requirements established by the organization and supplier. If a conference results in changes to the solicitation, the organization issues a written amendment to the solicitation.
- Selection of participants — All potential bidders should be invited to the prebid conference. A bidder should not be invited if the buying organization has no intention of doing business with that supplier. Attendees from the buying organization include supply management and affected departments.
- Potential benefits — Prebid meetings are advantageous because they establish a forum for two-way communication between the buying organization and the supplier to discuss the details of the RFQ, RFI, RFP or IFB package at the beginning of the bid process. Ensure that attendees receive bid packages well in advance of the meeting to have adequate time to review the contents. By meeting in an open forum, the organization will quickly learn of any discrepancies or errors in the bid package. Any corrections should be made as an addendum to the original bid package and should be provided in writing. This can serve to expedite the bid process, as well as ensure that the information the organization receives complies with all requirements.
- Potential problems — A potential disadvantage to the prebid meeting is the time it takes to participate. Overuse may discourage some suppliers from attending, especially during peak seasons for their trade or industry. To alleviate some of the temporal burdens associated with prebid meetings, telephone- or video-conferences have increasingly been used for this purpose. This allows more flexibility in scheduling and avoids travel (time, cost, etc.) of involved parties to a single location. However, some potential suppliers may not be comfortable attending a prebid meeting with their competitors, and could refrain from asking questions.
Other Solicitation Considerations
If a purchasing situation is complex due to issues such as highly technical specifications, a large spend, or the critical nature of a contract, if time allows, a pre-bid or pre-proposal conference (either in person, using video conferencing, or teleconferencing) may be helpful. All potential suppliers that the buying organization would consider using should be invited to participate. Suppliers should receive the solicitation package well in advance of the conference so they have time to review it prior to the meeting.
The conference provides the opportunity for two-way communication about blueprints and specifications, SOWs, quotation due dates, terms and conditions, proposal evaluation criteria, delivery schedules and materials, releasing procedures, invoicing procedures and documentation (including incentives), requirements if awarded business (such as reporting, insurance, background checks, security clearances, and permits), and other requirements established by the buying organization and supplier. If a conference results in changes to the solicitation, a written amendment to the solicitation should be issued. However, some suppliers may not be able to attend because of time, cost, or concerns about sharing information with competitors.
There are several best practices to ensure the solicitation process is fair and ethical. These include:
- Only qualified suppliers that the buying organization would consider awarding business to should be included in the solicitation process. To include suppliers that are not qualified is a waste of their time and resources.
- All suppliers must receive the same information as part of the solicitation and during the solicitation process. For example, if a supplier asks for clarification, all suppliers should receive the explanation.
- The suppliers should have adequate time to respond to the solicitation. The time allowed should consider the complexity of the process, the buying organization’s needs, and other solicitations that the suppliers may be addressing from the buying organization.
- Time extensions, if given, must apply to all suppliers.
- If a solicitation is cancelled by the buying organization, all suppliers should be notified immediately.
- All supplier proposals or quotations are confidential and should not be shared unless it is required by law to be public information.
- Record the time and date each submission was received.
- Review each submission for completeness, ensuring that all documents referenced by the supplier or requested by the organization are included.
- Retain all submitted documents from each respondent in the original bid package.
- Evaluation criteria should be consistently applied to all suppliers.
- All suppliers that submit quotations should be notified whether they received the award or not.