Always Conduct A Bid Debrief

Even When You Lose

The bid has been submitted, and it’s bad news – you have lost!

Although you may feel like you have had enough of this ITT, I highly recommend that you request the client for a debrief. Conducting a debrief is a great opportunity to understand what you missed that was truly important to your client.

It will give you valuable insight into what they are thinking, so you are better-equipped next time, and you may learn key lessons that can help you to win other bids.

The debrief is also a sales meeting in disguise. You are getting involved in a dialogue with your client, and given the chance to improve the relationship.


Conducting a Debrief: Guidelines for When You have Lost

The first thing to take into account is that the client procurement and evaluation team will be quite wary of you, because of the possibility that you will mount a legal challenge to the contract award.

As a result, they will be super-concerned to keep everything formal, to ensure they don’t say anything that might undermine the award.

In the opening minutes, communications can be stiff and formal – an environment which is not conducive to finding out more.

Leaving aside whether you are accepting the loss, or preparing the ground to mount a legal challenge, I highly recommend you approach the meeting in the following mindset: we’re here to learn, we want to understand where we went wrong, and what we need to do to better the next time.

There should be no hint of blame, or that they did anything wrong. Being confrontational will simply harden attitudes against you, creating a very difficult and acrimonious meeting.


Starting The Meeting

Each situation is unique, and so there is no set of standard questions to ask. I would start off the meeting along these lines:

  1. Your business/our business relationship/the chance to do business with you in the future is very important to us.
  2. The fact that we have lost/performed so badly is of great concern to us.
  3. We have asked for this meeting to understand where we went wrong, what you were looking for in the answers and we didn’t provide, so that we can make changes and improve in the future.
  4. Any information and guidance that you could give us would be most valuable and helpful.
  5. We greatly appreciate any feedback, as we are always looking for ways to improve.
  6. What I would like to do, with your agreement, is to go through those questions where we did not perform well, discuss what was in the winning answer, and then what key information was missing from our response.

During The Meeting

Have the scores, your response and any correspondence ready to hand. Go through each question and take copious notes. They will see you are serious about understanding what has transpired.

As the meeting progresses, and they see clear evidence that you are not after their heads on a stick (at least at this stage), tensions will ease, and you can often receive some interesting and informative responses.

For some of the questions, you will gain insight into what they really wanted to know, or were bothered about, and that you were not aware of. This is typical, especially when there has been scant sales activity and infrequent relationship building with the client, before the tender came out.

You’ll also get the chance to present your views on why you gave the answers that you did. This can provide a window into your products and

It's a Sales Meeting in Disguise

If you are hoping to do business with this client in the future, then this is your first sales meeting for the next procurement.

How you conduct yourself, the way you present your company’s capabilities in relation to the questions, all are stepping stones to building a better relationship with this client.

Always remember that a proposal is part of a sales process. It is not a substitute for sales activity, nor one for building a client relationship.

As a winner, going into a debrief meeting with the right attitude, will ensure some interesting and open discussions that otherwise might never transpire.