Curating Commercial Clarifications

By Nigel Dennis, CPP APMP Fellow – BidWrite CEO

Nigel Dennis - Curating Commercial Clarifications

Successful tender submissions require four key content elements:

  • A solution to the customer’s requirements to resolve a need.
  • General information about your company to assess fit and suitability.
  • A price, with or without added value, to determine affordability.
  • Commercial terms and conditions to mitigate overall contract risk.

Proposal professionals often focus on the first two elements, gathering content from subject matter experts and presenting it effectively. They act as interpreters, bridging the gap between the company’s content and the customer’s needs.

However, the second two elements – price and commercial terms – are frequently overlooked. Many proposal professionals claim they lack expertise or influence, or that these aspects are not their responsibility. Yet price and commercial terms are also crucial content and are often critical for contract success.

The Typical Approach to Handling Commercial Clarifications

A good tender submission aims to make it easy for the buyer to select an organisation. However, issues can arise when it comes to contractual information. For example, when a draft contract is included with a customer request and clarifications are invited, commercial departments or lawyers often provide extensive lists of requested changes. These lists are usually included in the submission ‘as is’, despite their complexity.

Generally, proposal professionals take one of two approaches:

  • Include the information exactly as provided, even if lengthy and difficult to understand.
  • Include a vague statement like, “We have reviewed the contract terms and conditions and wish to discuss these prior to any contract award.”

Both approaches can hinder shortlisting and selection.

A Better Approach to Handling Commercial Clarifications

A more effective approach involves classifying and presenting each suggested contract change into one of four categories. This method still provides the necessary information from the commercial department but presents it in a more customer-focused way. This approach reduces perceived resistance from the buyer, better facilitating the path from shortlist to winner.

1Not NegotiableA deal breaker (but there should only ever be a few of these).Consequential loss is unlimited.
2NegotiableSignificant enough not to ignore, but negotiable. Often comes with a pricing implication.A certain type of insurance is asked for. You don’t have it, and you don’t believe it is required, but you can get it (for a cost).
3ClarificationA better interpretation so misunderstanding is reduced.Rather than “Reports are due every Monday” suggest “Reports are due on the first working day of the week”.
4CorrectionObvious mistakes that should be accepted by the drafter without question.“Clause 5.2 should read Clause 5.3”.

So next time, don’t just ignore an exhaustive list of commercial clarifications. Work to understand them and categorise the key objections. The submission will have a better chance of success, and you will enhance your value as a proposal professional.

Our thanks to Bid Solutions for inviting Nigel Dennis to contribute this article to the latest edition of Bidding Quarterly magazine. You can download the full Issue 19 – Exploring the Bid Lifecycle here.


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