It’s not unusual to receive an unclear RFQ. You find yourself having to interpret your client’s precise needs or struggling to understand exactly how different sections of the tender will be evaluated. At this point many businesses are unsure or what to do.
Some worry that asking for clarification might be seen as a sign that they don’t understand the client’s business or how to deliver the contract. Others might be concerned about irritating the client by implicitly criticising their RFQ writing capabilities.
The simple truth is that not seeking clarification is a big commercial risk. If you misinterpret the requirements (basically by guessing incorrectly what is needed) your bid will be at a disadvantage. Even if you are successful, you may have signed up to commitments you hadn’t understood.
The good news is that if the RFQ is poorly drafted and unclear to you, it will be unclear to everyone. You won’t be the only one asking questions.
Sometimes, to save time, clients will use templates and cut and paste sections from other tenders, so it’s not surprising that aspects of the tender may not seem clear or relevant to the services being tendered.
In reality, clients normally appreciate getting questions from bidders; it helps to improve the decision making process and shows interest.
What to do if the RFQ is unclear:
- First, read every RFQ thoroughly as soon as you get it. Make a note of key dates – particularly the cutoff for any queries, which is normally some weeks before the deadline for submission. There will be no opportunity to raise questions after that date.
- Prioritise your queries. It may be that some are so significant that you wouldn’t want to proceed with the bid without having satisfactory answers.
- Use the official channels. Normally there will be a portal for posting questions so that all bidders are seen to be treated equally. The chances are you will see that some of your questions have already been asked.
- Ask as many questions as you need to.
Remember the standard police caution, ‘it may harm your defence if you fail to mention something that you later rely on as evidence.’ If you don’t raise queries when you have the opportunity, your ability to challenge the decision may be undermined.