Curating Commercial Clarifications

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Successful tender submissions require four key content elements:

  • A solution to the customer’s requirements to resolve a need.
  • General information about your company to assess fit and suitability.
  • A price, with or without added value, to determine affordability.
  • Commercial terms and conditions to mitigate overall contract risk.

Proposal professionals often focus on the first two elements, gathering content from subject matter experts and presenting it effectively. They act as interpreters, bridging the gap between the company’s
content and the customer’s needs.

However, the second two elements – price and commercial terms – are frequently overlooked. Many proposal professionals claim they lack expertise or influence, or that these aspects are not their responsibility. Yet price and commercial terms are also crucial content and are often critical for contract success.

A Typical Approach to Handling Commercial Clarifications
A good tender submission aims to make it easy for the buyer to select an organisation. However, issues can arise when it comes to contractual information. For example, when a draft contract is included with a customer request and clarifications are invited, commercial departments or lawyers often provide extensive lists of requested changes. These lists are usually included in the submission ‘as is’, despite their complexity.

There are generally two approaches taken by proposal professionals:

  • Include the information exactly as provided, even if lengthy and difficult to understand.
  • Include a vague statement like, “We have reviewed the contract terms and conditions and wish to discuss these prior to any contract award.”

Both approaches can hinder shortlisting and selection.

A Better Approach to Handling Commercial Clarifications
A more effective approach involves classifying and presenting each suggested contract change into one of four categories. This method still provides the necessary information from the commercial department but presents it in a more customer-focused way. This approach reduces perceived resistance from the buyer, better facilitating the path from shortlist to winner.

So next time, don’t just ignore an exhaustive list of commercial clarifications. Work to understand them and categorise the key objections. The submission will have a better chance of success, and you will enhance your value as a proposal professional.

This article was written by Nigel Dennis.

Nigel has been called a proposal pioneer in Australia for his work in shaping the professional bidding landscape in the region. He has three decades of proposal consulting experience and has trained thousands of people. Nigel started the APMP Australia New Zealand Chapter, runs Australia’s largest specialist bid consultancy and is a strong advocate for development of the profession.

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