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“Should I clarify?”

3 August 2023

You’re working on a tender and, if it’s a public sector tender, the client will give you a deadline to ask clarification questions, and if it’s a private sector tender, it’s a bit more ‘ask what you want when you want'.

But many of us don’t ask. Why?

But many of us don’t ask. Why?

The client will share it with the other bidders

You don’t want to give anything away that will help inform another bidder’s response.

You don’t need to ask anything

You’ve read through all the documents and attachments, they contain everything you need, it all makes sense, so you just need to get your head down and crack on with it.

You haven’t even looked at the bid and the deadline has now passed

You’re so busy with your day job and all the other contracts you won that you haven’t even looked at this one yet and won’t get chance to until nearer the bid deadline date.


Are you saying I should ask clarifications?

Yes. Always. Every time. And as early as possible from when they released the bid documents.



It impacts the psychological position of the reader

Until robots are marking our bid submissions, human knowledge, experience, and emotions will always have a bearing on how they mark your responses.

If they favour you: they will read your document in a way that justifies their decision to give you decent marks.

If they favour your competitor: they will read your document in a way that justifies their decision to mark you down.

These two opposing mindsets can mean the difference between winning and losing and it is your job to help the reader get into the first position before your bid lands in front of them.


But that’s business development. It’s too late to work on our relationship now. What more can I do?

Yes, you should have worked your relationship well enough to be in the first position before they release the bid documents. BUT, there is something you can do during the bid process, and that’s to ask good questions.

The more and better questions you ask at the start, the more likely it is that the reader will come to trust and conclude that your responses and the advice/solution that you offer is accurate, well-considered, and the right way to go.

What should I ask?

A tender process question

Clients cut and paste from old SQs/RFPs/ITTs and you will often spot inconsistencies in the fonts, word counts, page numbers, question numbers, appendices, that you can check.

A background question

Something that will inform you of how they have come to be in their current position or a report/survey/document you need to give more clarity on the direction of advice/solution you need to give.

An outcome question

You may need to know what they want to achieve at the end of this process so that you can determine how best to go about it and get them there.

A request for mid-tender review

Can you request a chat? A meeting with the client? A site visit? Anything that shows you’re keen and have done your homework.

Is there anything I shouldn’t ask?

An extension

The only appropriate time to ask for one is right at the start because you can foresee an issue. This is a planned request. Asking too late shows them that you’re disorganised and helps to put them in that second position where they are looking at your submission with caution.

A question someone has already asked

Read all the clarifications and responses diligently so you don’t ask something that they have already answered. Again, this looks disorganised and will leave the reader believing you are the type of people who skip over the detail.


The benefits outweigh any cons

Get noticed

If you’re worried you will give something away and help your competition, then don’t. Yes, you’ll help them, but it will help you too and that’s more important. The person running the procurement process will remember that it was your company that asked the smart question. You can even remind them in the bid that you asked that question and explain how their answer has helped to inform your response.

Show dedication

Your job here isn’t just to find out more information, it is to develop the reader’s mindset and demonstrate to them what kind of people you will be to work with. Disorganised, heads down with no communication, assuming people? Or organised, communicative, and diligent people? These things find their way into the evaluation process one way or another.