If your bid or proposal documents have done the job, you may find yourself with the happy problem of having to prepare for a tender shortlisting interview.
Also known as “beauty parades”, such interviews are de rigueur in many procurement processes – competitive or otherwise.
What’s really going on in tender shortlisting interviews?
Areas of probable interest to interviewers fall into several categories.
Confirmation that what they have read is what they’ll get. Interviewers will want to be certain that you and your team are as presented in your proposal; that you are “the goods” and not just great on paper.
Clarification of your proposal responses. You may be asked to provide more details or examples to support your claims, or to clarify some points.
Extensions and additions to the RFP/RFT. Interviewers may want to ask additional questions, either to address areas not covered in the tender or proposal request, or to deal with issues that arose during the evaluation process.
Concerns and negotiation items. Interviewers may raise questions about possible obstacles to going ahead, or areas where they may wish to drive for more.
Implementation considerations. Interviewers may want assurance that you and your team have the capacity to not only deal with current workload, but also to absorb additional work volume. They may want to hear how you will manage growth, and how you will forge relationships with their business units.
Cultural fit. The interview is a clear opportunity for the client to assess how well you will fit with them, their departments and personnel.
Questions which you may have for them. It’s advisable to go to these interviews with a few questions of your own prepared, in case you are given the opportunity to ask them. Don’t be caught out with nothing sensible to say.
How to approach the tender shortlisting interview
Approach the session ready to engage in conversation and meaningful dialogue to address all possible areas of interest.
Give the interviewers a taste of your professionalism and operating style, and show them how easy you are to deal with.
Practice, practice, practice.
Try to anticipate everything likely to arise in the interview, and rehearse your responses and approach. This includes knowing the content of your proposal inside and out, and understanding what items might be up for negotiation and which are not.
Benefits of thorough preparation are obvious. The biggest benefit is that your team will embark on the session with calm confidence, and be able to engage and impress the interviewers.
Been asked a question out of left field?
If are not sure how to answer a question, it’s okay to clarify with the interviewer what they are asking. This will also give you a bit of extra time to think about how to answer it.
It’s also okay to challenge the premise of a question if the interviewer has made an incorrect assumption. Just make sure you do it politely and respectfully (i.e. not like this).
If you’re asked a question that you simply cannot answer – for example, if you’ve been asked to provide data or statistics that you don’t have to hand – then it is reasonable to ask if you can take the question on notice and promise to come back to them, rather than risk providing incorrect information.
With this advice in mind, the right approach and proper preparation, you can enter tender shortlisting interviews knowing you’re ready to nail the sale and win (or retain) that client.
If you’d like coaching or presentation support ahead of your next tender shortlisting interview or beauty parade, please get in touch.
And download our free tender and bid debriefing guide for internal teams.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]