How to receive a sufficient number of quotations from suppliers

Date: 13th May 2022   By: Lisa O'Shea   length:    Tags: Beginner  

Members undertaking further competitions are not always getting the number of bids back that they wanted, and we understand that this can be frustrating. We have therefore put together a step by step to guide for members on how to increase the quality and number of responses they receive from suppliers when submitting requests for quotations.  

Why Did I Receive So Few Bids? 

It is not uncommon for an institution to utilise a framework agreement which has more than three suppliers on it, and for them to obtain fewer than three quotes through this process. Suppliers have various reasons as to why they do not bid for an opportunity, some examples are as follows: 

  • The supplier is having capacity issues, and is unable to take on the additional workload 
  • The opportunity is of such low value that the supplier cannot make a profit on it 
  • The timescales offered by the institution are too short for the supplier to be able to satisfy the needs of the requirement 
  • The institution has specified a particular brand which limits the competition 
  • The requirement is complex, and the institution has provided limited information, meaning it will be a lot of work for the suppliers to understand the requirement, and creates additional risk for the supplier as a consequence 
  • The requirement is on a large scale and the supplier is an SME 
  • They do not service that particular region 
  • There has been a change in staff and none of the details on the CPC website are accurate. It is up to suppliers to ensure this information is reliable 
  • The supplier can no longer offer that particular product/service/work but are able to cover other areas on that lot 
  • The market is experiencing major difficulties and it is not known when it may stabilise 

When establishing a framework, CPC carefully evaluate the number of suppliers that are given a place on each framework. This is a balance between the size of the supply market, choice for our members and enough suppliers to ensure a sufficient response to each request for quotation. 

However, member institutions can make themselves a more attractive customer and maximise the likelihood of obtaining an adequate number of bids and responses from suppliers by following various steps outlined below: 

1. Pre-market engagement – by talking to suppliers this helps to nurture and prompt the market to the forthcoming procurement opportunity. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss your requirements and understand what the market can offer and if there are alternative requirements which the market can provide as options, which may give added value and cost savings. Best practice is to allocate a time period within your timeline to undertake this pre-market engagement exercise, eg; 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the complexity of the procurement. Plan your questions to the market suppliers and provide the same information to all of the suppliers in order to be fair and transparent. Ensure you make it clear that this exercise is for planning purposes only and for no quotes/proposals to be offered at this stage of the procurement process. Once the deadline is up for talking to suppliers, no further market engagement should take place. Hopefully this pre-market engagement will have geared up the market suppliers ready for the publication of your quote/tender and helped you shape the requirements and specification.  

 

2. Plan ahead –  

a) Timeline – draw up a timeline which will provide a prompt for each of the key steps in the procurement process. This should include the following:  

 

  • Internal stakeholder engagement; 
  • Pre market engagement; 
  • Completion of specification; 
  • Complete quote/tender documentation; 
  • Date for publication of quote/tender;  
  • Last date for supplier questions/queries; 
  • Quote/tender return date; 
  • Evaluation period; 
  • Approval of recommendations; 
  • Intention to award letters and feedback; 
  • 10 day standstill (if applicable); 
  • Award date; 
  • Publish Award on Find a Tender (if appropriate). 

 

b) Publish quote/tender as early as possible - giving suppliers sufficient time to respond is more likely to attract good quality quotations and tenders from suppliers. Insufficient deadlines can result in poor quality quotes and/or suppliers not submitting a bid at all which compromises your competitive tender exercise and may not comply with your financial regulations. The timescales to allow for supplier responses do vary depending on the complexity of the requirement. Best practice procurement suggests a minimum of two weeks from issuing the RFQ/ITT to receipt of supplier bids. A longer timescale will be needed for more complex requirements, such as those that involve a supplier site visit prior to bid submission. We would recommend five weeks is the minimum time that should be given to suppliers to respond to an RFQ/ITT for these types of procurement, longer if possible. 

3. Consider the demand – consider the likely demand for the product or service within the sector. Allow extra time for bid deadlines if purchasing during a busy period e.g. for a 1st August delivery deadline, over Christmas or bank holidays etc. Suppliers may not hold stock if the volume required is high and may need time to seek and confirm delivery dates. 

4. Detailed specification – carefully consider the information you provide in your specification. Is it detailed enough for suppliers to provide a comprehensive response? Giving suppliers insufficient information to enable them respond to your RFQ/ITT could make your request unattractive to a supplier who may then decline to bid. Use RFQ/ITT templates where available within the CPC user guide or ask your Regional Procurement Advisor for an example template. 

5. Length of contract – offering commitment to suppliers rather than spot purchasing could make you a more attractive customer to suppliers and therefore increase both the number and competitiveness of quotes received. 

In addition, CPC would also recommend for members to utilise the Mini-Competition Process Checklist, (a printable version of which can be found on most framework pages), or by watching the video included within the Making a Framework Work Blog post, when also looking to increase the number of bids they receive back from suppliers.  

 

Feedback 

It can be frustrating when a low volume of bids are received and we request to suppliers that they provide feedback where they choose to not bid. However, in the instance that this does not happen, it is recommended to institutions that they seek feedback directly. 

It is best practice for both parties to provide feedback as it may help guide future procurement exercises, this includes both at the tendering stage, and after an evaluation process. Institutions should provide feedback to suppliers, letting them know the relative advantages and disadvantages of their response to the different elements of your process in comparison to other tenderers. Further guidance on providing feedback can be found on the CPC Website.