It is so important to fully utilise the ability to ask clarification questions within a tender process. Typically, the clarifications window will close days or sometimes a week or two before the tender deadline, so try and get ahead of the game by reading through all of the tender documents and highlighting anything you are unclear of before the last date for clarifications. It is also worthwhile sketching out what your bid offer is going to be so that if you need to ask any questions to help you shape your response you have plenty of time to do so.
Ensure when you submit your questions they are clearly worded and will get you the best response possible. Ensure your communications are positive, courteous, and polite. If you have not participated in pre-marketing engagement, this might be the first impression that you make on the buyer.
Avoid detailing anything specific about your business in the questions you raise, as this may be published for other bidders to see when the buyer replies, potentially giving the competition an insight into your business and a competitive advantage.
No question is a stupid question, however, ensure you have triple checked the tender documents before you ask anything, in case you have the answer within the documentation they have already supplied.
If you queries relate to your interpretation of what is stated in the documents, or perhaps a perceived conflict in what they have stated in different parts of the tender pack, be sure to include the document references, page numbers or paragraph numbers, so it is clear why the query has arisen. If they buyer understands why the query has arisen, this will assist in their providing a fuller answer.
Sometimes questions will be answered the same day, other times the buyer will store up all the questions and answer them in a single document, which is perhaps updated on a regularly basis (e.g. a weekly update). So be prepared for there to be a wait – again another reason why it’s a good idea to get ahead early.
Make sure to read all of the clarification questions and answers published and not just your own as other bidders may have thought of something you haven’t. Quite often the clarifications record will also form part of the contract, so if the Q&A alter or change the spec that was published, the clarifications record may supersede this.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask the question again if the buyers first answer doesn’t make sense. But consider re-wording the question. To get the right answer, you need to ask the right question!