Sometimes, as part of the bid or tender process, you will be invited to conduct a site visit with the client. This is typically more relevant if the bid is for the supply of a service at a clients’ site.
Whilst in the last couple of years we have seen a marked decrease in site visits and an increase in online bidders’conferences, we are pleased to report that site visits are now once again being scheduled. We are pleased because for our bidding clients, the site visit offers excellent opportunities, which include: a) getting to understand the needs and preferences of the buyer/buying organisation – a face to face meeting on site enables you to understand what reallymatters to them, beyond what is stated within the tender documents; andb) the site visit also offers you the opportunity to make a positive impression on the project team.Quite often the site visit will include a representative that will be involved in the evaluation of your submission. Making a positive first impression, in person, can only have a positive effect on the scoring of your bid.
It may be that you are invited to a multi-site visit or just a one-off location. Either way it’s important that you make yourself available to attend these site visits at times that suit the client – remember this is possibly the very first impression you will be giving of your business/organisation.
With that in mind we would encourage you to:
- Think about the best member of staff to send to this site visit, one that is professional, courteous, that fully understands your business and what the client is looking to procure through this tender process. If you are able to send more than one representative, consider sending an “operational” member of your team, in addition to a senior strategic team member or director. The operational member of staff can really add value to a visit, as they understand what happens “on the ground” and can often engage in meaningful operational conversations with those in attendance from the client’s operations. What is learned during such conversations can inform your understanding of the client and inform your bid strategy and how your organisation can add value.
- Ensure the team member(s) that attend are “suited and booted” appropriately, ideally with branded professional clothing, to be as memorable as possible. Consider if they may need to take their own PPE/face masks.
- Plan the journey by making sure they know exactly where they are going, how to get there and leave enough time to get to the appointment ahead of time. Ensure they know who they are meeting from the client side – their names, their roles and perhaps their buying influence so that they can talk accordingly to them.
- Before they leave the office, make sure they have fully read the tender and have a handle on your strategy for delivery (including how you want to respond and outline the service that you will be supplying). Their understanding of the specification and the questions being raised in the tender is of particular importance.
- Advise your member of staff to listen carefully to questions and points being raised by other bidders. This helps to understand the competition, which informs your own bid strategy and planning.
Should you ask questions?
Absolutely! We would encourage you to have questions ready to ask throughout the site visit. If it all seems straightforward and you understand their requirements, perhaps just plan some anyway to show an interest. It is always a good idea to clarify the exact requirements as you have interpreted them, to ensure that nothing has been misunderstood.
Some buyers may be more standoff-ish than others and may not want to give too much information away, in order for this to be the fairest buying process.If that is the case don’t press for answers, offer to put such questions in writing instead, officially, through the tender portal or similar so that they can respond to all bidders fairly through the Q&A process.
Questions that are good to ask:
- What have been the positives and negatives in the way the service has been delivered in the past?
- What is the no.1 thing they are trying to achieve with this new contract award?
- Who will be reviewing this tender and what is their primary aim? You may not be able to ask this outright, but for example if there are Event Managers that are the influencers, but the Finance Director gets the final sign off, you will know, along with the scoring criteria, how to tailor your answers to these multi audiences/decision makers.
As part of conversations during the site visit try to also understand is the buyer:
- Traditional/modern in their views – are they open to change/innovation?
- Are environmental/sustainability/social value factors important in their decision making process?
Take as many notes and pictures as possible on the site visit to ensure you have used it to its full potential. In doing this you can refer back to these when completing the bid response and importantly you can refer to your site visit and even include pictures when making your recommendations for service delivery or similar.
By attending site visits, you can often learn about the relationship with the incumbent, providing your organisation with a better understanding of what works in the current buyer/supplier relationship and what does not.
Remember, even if you are the incumbent contract holder its worth attending the site visit – you don’t know what new things you could learn!