News & Insights

Buyer Engagement

Jack Bolton
Written by
Jack Bolton
Client Engagement


As we all know, in public tendering there are formal rules applied to all buyer engagement and communications during the bidding process. This means that although you might very well know Jane in Procurement, you are not allowed to use these connections to ask questions informally or engage with the buyer in any way outside of the official rules.

It makes sense then, to take any opportunity provided by the buyer to engage with them. Typically these opportunities are:

  • Market engagement stage
  • Site visits
  • Q&A typically via a portal or email
  • Post-submission presentations

Market Engagement Stage

This is typically a semi-informal method of buyer engagement allowing the buyer to ‘meet’ potential providers prior to issuing a formal invitation to tender. It may take one or both of two forms:

  • A high-level questionnaire about your company and what you can provide.
  • An event where they will talk about the services they wish to invite tenders for.

They can use this to:

  • Understand what providers are out there and what they have to offer.
  • Gauge whether they are aiming in the right direction in terms of how they structure their tender (especially if it is for multiple services for example).
  • Ascertain the level of interest in the opportunity.

Site Visits

Once the formal tender process has been initiated, the buyer may offer the opportunity to attend a site visit. Site visits are often quite formal and can even be a mandatory requirement. Other times, site visits can be much more informal offering advantages such as:

  • Individual appointments
  • No restrictions on numbers
  • Personal contact with someone to arrange the visits
  • More than one visit permitted

However the buyer chooses to organise the visit, we strongly recommend that you attend. This is a perfect opportunity for buyer engagement and to have some degree of direct influence in the process. You should therefore plan:

  • Who are you going to send? Send someone who is knowledgeable, experienced, observant and will ask good questions. Don’t just send a junior employee to be present.
  • If you have no relationship with the buyer, do some research on them.
  • Find out, what the incumbent is like and if there are any problems (or rumours of them).
  • If you do know the buyer, (you may have worked with them before or be the incumbent), then make sure the person going to the visit has all the necessary information.
  • Hopefully you have read the tender documentation by this point. If you have some questions about the tender or the services then prepare these beforehand.

One key benefit of site visits is the opportunity they provide to ‘scope-out’ your competition. You will normally be able to get a good idea of who you’re up against which can be helpful when writing your bid in making sure you capitalise on any weaknesses they have.

Q&A via Email or a Portal

Aside from the site visit this is probably going to be the main method of buyer engagement that you have. The main points to think about are:

  • Firstly and most importantly, ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t worry about looking stupid, or ignorant, or allow the development of a culture of not asking questions. You are far more likely to “look stupid” if you don’t ask a question and get tripped up later because you misunderstood or assumed the best way to proceed. Tenders have been lost because of this approach.
  • Remember, no buyer is perfect, they may have worked hard to produce the documents and issued them in good faith but like you, they make mistakes and miss things.
  • If you have questions about commercially sensitive topics then it is always worth asking the buyer if you may ask questions in commercial confidence, (the answers to which will be for you only). The buyer can only say no.
  • Make sure you read all the clarification responses that are published by the buyer. Sometimes there will be answers to questions you were going to ask and sometimes there will be useful information that may not even have occurred to you.

Post-Tender Presentations

This is a common method of examining your proposals to try and gain a better understanding of what you offer and how you will provide the services should you be appointed. Like the site visits these may be formal or informal and will vary in length and requirements.

Presentations represent a very valuable opportunity to engage in person with the buyer for the last time before their decision and begin to develop a working relationship.

It is always a good idea to read through your tender before attending the presentation. While seemingly obvious, the panel will always ask questions about your bid. You must therefore make sure you know your proposal inside-out before attending the presentation.


Click Here to find out more about understanding tender documents.

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